Dave Grant, November 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 10:16 UTC Sunset: 23:16 UTC
Wind: AM Slight; PM Slight
Seas: 4’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1015

Science and Technology Log 

Flotsam and Jetsam “Never bring anything onto a boat that you can’t afford to lose.” (Nancy Church – Cape Cod Museum of Natural History)

Except for the anchor, there are very few items that go overboard intentionally on a ship. A hat blown off your head by the wind becomes flotsam, but something deliberately discarded is jetsamARGO  is the international program that deploys and monitors a global network of autonomous floats that monitor ocean conditions (“Taking the pulse of the oceans.”). The buoys are deployed from a variety of vessels and one of the main advantages is that a vessel does not have to slow down or stop to launch them. Because of this, a vessel dedicated to research is not required, and commercial and even cruise ships have participated in this world-ocean study.

Drifter currents
Drifter currents

Drifters have been distributed since 1999 and continuously monitor temperature, salinity and currents. They will provide a global network spread out on a 3º by 3º ocean grid (180-miles by 180miles). Data transmitted automatically to satellites is broadcast to the Global Drifter Program and available continuously to researchers.

Stickers on the drifter buoy
Stickers on the drifter buoy

Teachers and students also are involved through the Adopt-a-Drifter Program and we deployed drifters marked with decals from two schools partnered through it: Universite Nancy (France) and Grandview Elementary School – Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Drifters actively transmit data for over a year, but like anything in the sea, can become the home for bio-fouling organisms that can interfere with their operation. We deployed several of them. The simplest are blue-andwhite basket ball-sized floats with a drogue (a large sock-like bag) that acts as a sea anchor or drift sock so that the movement of the drifter is by current, not wind. Once in the water, the packing materials dissolve, the drogue sinks to about 15 meters, and the currents, satellites, scientists and students do the rest. All researchers have to do to explore the oceans is log-on to the drifter website with a computer.  

“After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds… Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves… (After the Sea-Ship – Walt Whitman)

Dave holding the drifter buoy
Dave holding the drifter buoy

Other larger drifters are shipped in sturdy but degradable cardboard cartons. These too are launched off the stern and the shipping boxes rapidly fall apart after the water dissolves the glue. They are rather mysterious since we did not actually see what they look like, but I’ve seen others in the repair shop at WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). They are tube-shaped and designed to automatically sink to as deep as 1000-meters, and then rise periodically to broadcast their data. What a wonderful journey they will have to share with the world when they start reporting their data in dark and stormy seas and on sunny days. Falling away astern of us, floating high and looking coffin-like, I was reminded of Queequeg’s casket and some of the most memorable lines from Moby Dick:  “These are times of dreamy solitude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin; one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it…”

Drifter array
Drifter array

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Personal Log 

Drifter in the water on its way!
Drifter in the water on its way!

We have had a great string of days. I have settled into an interesting work routine with  helpful and interesting scientists and crew. Weather balloons and sondes are released every four hours and the readouts from their fights are very informative. Along with the evening lectures, the week has been like a short semester on meteorology. Hourly water sampling has gone well too, and we are learning more about these peculiar eddies of warm and cold water each day.

My roommate (RW) is very nice and accommodating, and since we work different hours and find the best way to relax is with headphones and a book, the room does not seem crowded at all. There are a few items I am glad I brought, and I suggest they be added to the TAS list: coveralls, ski cap, knee pads and eye drops. The coveralls are great for cool mornings on deck and to quickly pull on for the weekly “abandon ship” drills, since you are required to report to your muster station in long pants and sleeves, and with a hat. My light-weight volleyball knee-pads are good if I have to kneel on the metal deck for a while to take pictures. And eye drops are a relief since we do get wind almost every day, and some very bright days since we are headed into the Austral Summer, and the sun’s position is moving south every day.

Crew holding the Argos drifter
Crew holding the Argos drifter

I have been checking my Almanac, and perhaps as early as tomorrow, our course will cross paths with the sun’s southern movement, and it will be directly overhead at Noon. This can only occur at locations in the “Tropics” (Between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) and I have heard sailors refer to it as a “Lahaina Noon.” This term comes from the old sailing days when whalers made port stops at Lahaina on Maui. When it occurs there, fence posts, and for that matter, people, do not cast a shadow. Hopefully the clouds will clear around midday and we will be able to see the phenomenon.

“Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves Where life and it ventures are laid, The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves May see us in sunshine and shade.” (Sun and Shadow by Oliver Wendell Holmes – 1857) 

Dave Grant, November 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 13, 2008

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab
Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: AM Calm; PM 5kts
Seas: 5’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1016

Science and Technology Log 

Big whirls have little whirls That feed on their velocity, And little whirls have lesser whirls And so on to viscosity. (L.F. Richardson)

This little imitation of Jonathon Swift’s ditty helps illustrate the parallels between the atmosphere and ocean. Just as in the atmosphere, but much slower because of the increased density, turbulence in the water is expressed by meandering currents, and vortices. Good examples of this are observable when an oar is dipped into the water to push a boat, or a spoon is drawn across a bowl of soup. One of the mysteries of the SEP (South East Pacific) region is the presence of large oceanic vortices (Eddies), the mechanisms that generate them, and the length of time they persist as identifiable entities slowly spinning in the surrounding waters.

Dave holding the UTCD
Dave holding the UTCD

In a number of coastal areas fishermen and oceanographers have discovered that some important fish species can be found associated with these so-called mesoscale water structures, like upwelling areas, meandering currents and eddies. Such links are fairly well known and heavily exploited in the vicinity of the boundary currents off eastern North America (Gulf Stream), California (California Current) and Japan (Kuroshio Current); for tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies. The coast of Peru and Chile is swept by the northward flowing Humboldt (Peru-Chile) Current and the area is famous for the upwelling that brings deep,  cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface (and every 5-7 years when it doesn’t, El Nino conditions). Exposed to sunlight, phytoplankton utilize the nutrients to form the base of the world’s largest industrial fishery for fish meal and oil. The area also supports a large commercial tuna fishery.

UCTD Data
UCTD Data

Poorly understood is the role of eddies that spin off the major current; vortices averaging about 50-Km (30-miles) wide (i.e. mesoscale). These may be either cold or warm water eddies that may last offshore for months, and move as discrete masses to the west. In general these vortices have more energy that the surrounding waters, circulate faster; and are important because they transport heat, masses of water and nutrients to less productive regions towards the mid-ocean. The eddies also transport marine life and the mechanisms for this are also poorly understood, however the outcome is not. Moored buoys out here collect and support masses of fouling organisms like goose-neck barnacles that must be cleaned off periodically, along with other routine maintenance of the batteries and recording instruments. Servicing these buoys is also part of the mission of the Ron Brown.

Chasing “Eddy”

CTD Data
CTD Data

Tracking these “cyclones in the sea” requires interpreting daily satellite images that measure water temperature and by data collected by the UCTD (Underway Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe. This is a torpedo-shaped device cast off the stern of the Brown while we are underway. It rapidly sinks to several hundred meters. Then, like a big, expensive ($15,000.) fishing lure, it is retrieved with an electric motor that winds back over 600 meters of line. The whole process takes about 20-minutes (including the 2minute plunge of the UCTD).

The information acquired is phenomenal, and if collected any other way, would involve stopping the ship and repeatedly lowering Niskin or Nansen bottles; and adding weeks or months to a cruise schedule. Once back onboard the ship, the data is downloaded and plotted to give us a continuous picture of the upper layers of the ocean along our sailing route. All of this hourly data allows the tracing of water currents. The procedure is not without trials and tribulations. Lines can tangle or break, and there is always the possibility that the probe will bump into something – or something will bump into it down in the deep, dark ocean. However, any data retrieved is invaluable to our studies, and each cast produces a wealth of information.

Teeth marks on a UCTD
Teeth marks on a UCTD

Personal Log 

Today’s weather is fabulous. Most mornings are heavily overcast, but we are still close enough to the coast to enjoy breaks in the clouds. So, everyone is taking their breaks in folding chairs on the foredeck at “Steel Beach” since we are never certain when we’ll again have a sunny moment, or how long it will last.

After lunch there was a bit of excitement; we saw other mariners. In the old days of sailing, ships passing each other at sea would often stop to exchange greetings, information and mail. This practice was known as gamming. We sighted our first ship of the cruise; a cargo carrier heading north and piled high with shipping containers. It was too far off for gamming or even waving (The scientists who are sampling air want to keep their instruments free of exhaust from any nearby sources)  so it would have been out of the question anyway. The bridge gave it a wide berth; so wide that even with binoculars I could not be certain of the ship’s flag, name or registry, other than oversize lettering on containers that spelled JUDPER. Presumably it was carrying agricultural goods from southern Chile or manufactured goods and minerals from the central part of the country. Chile is a major exporter of copper; and the smelters, factories and vehicles in this upscale corner of South America (And the sulfur and particulate matter they spew into the sky) are a interesting land signatures for the atmospheric scientists and their delicate instruments. So the only gamming today is in the narrow passageways throughout the Brown. There is no wasted space on a ship, so in many areas there is “barely enough room to swing a cat.” (The cat being the cat-o-nine-tails once used to flog sailors. “The cat is out of the bag” when someone is to be punished.*)

Group watching a ship on the horizon
Group watching a ship on the horizon

I am still not certain what the proper ship’s etiquette is in passageways and stairways, but I am quick to relinquish the right-of-way to anyone who is carrying something, looks like they are in a hurry or on a mission, or in uniform (obviously) or kitchen staff in particular. Because the ship is always rocking, I’ve found that I tend to lean against the right wall while moving about. By lightly supporting myself leaning with a hand, elbow or shoulder (depending on the how significant the ship is rolling, pitching or yawing) I slide along the wall, and probably look like a clumsy puppy scampering down the hall, but it works…except for a few bruises here and there. Often I come face-to-face with the same shipmates repetitively during the day. (How many times a day can you say “Hello” to someone?) Everyone is polite and considerate, especially when moving about the ship, and in spite of repeatedly passing the same people many times every day. So generally, since everyone is busy for most of their shift, when meeting in the hallways, you resort to awkward routines like: muttered Hey, Hi, Yo or What’s-up; tipping your hat or a dumb half-salute; or a nod…or if from New England, what is known as the reverse nod.

*Flogging: There was a science to this horrible practice, not only with the number of lashes imposed, but what they were administered with: a colt (a single whip) or a cat (They varied in size from “king size” to “boy’s cats”).

Although the U.S. admirals reported that “it would be utterly impossible to have an efficient Navy without this form of punishment” Congress abolished flogging on July 17, 1862. And the last official British Navy flogging was in 1882 – although the captain’s authority remained on the books until 1949. (To politely paraphrase Winston Churchill, the British Navy was bound together by…*#@#&!, rum and the lash.)

One Final Note 

We discovered stowaways onboard…two cattle egrets. Egrets are wading birds that feed in shallow ponds and marshy areas; and the cattle egret regularly feed along roadsides and upland fields where cattle or tractors stir up insects. Even when threatened, they tend to fly only short distances, so it is odd to see them so far from land. However, in the 1950’s a small flock of these African birds crossed the South Atlantic to Brazil and establish a breeding colony. I remember spotting them for the first time on the Mexican border near Yuma in the 1970’s and today they have managed to thrive and spread all the way across the warmer half of North America.

Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal, 
Of unnamed heroes in the ships – of waves spreading and spreading  
As far as the eye can reach, 
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing, 
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations… 
(Song for All Seas, All Ships – Walt Whitman)

Stowaways – cattle egrets
Stowaways – cattle egrets

Dave Grant, November 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 10, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 07:12 Sunset: 20:11
Wind: S-SW 8-10 Kts
Seas: S-SW 8-10’
Precipitation: 0.0
Temperature: 18º-C
Pressure: 1015 Mb

Science and Technology Log 

“Send them our latitude and longitude.”
Admiral William Halsey, 1944 (Response to an intercepted Japanese radio message: “Where is the American fleet?)

A Twin Otter plane flying over
A Twin Otter plane flying over

Now that we are out of sight of land and the ocean is featureless except for the waves, so pinpoint navigation becomes crucial. Using the most modern navigation tool – GPS (Global Positioning Satellite system) our navigation officer has put us precisely where we need be to await over-flights from aircraft sampling the atmosphere above us. We are not just near our sampling station – not a mile, a minute, a knot, or a league – we are within a hairsbreadth* of it. We will be here for the day taking water and air measurements, while waiting for the only things we’ll see flying over the Pacific besides birds and balloons; our last connection to the land for several weeks.

“Thanks for the memories.”

The CTD Rosette
The CTD Rosette

The ocean water we test has a memory for the weather and climate conditions today and over the last several months and years. The “code” we need to understand these secrets is hidden in the temperature and salinity of the water, and the keys to unlock them are a number of devices that sink, float and drift. Over the next few weeks we will use all these techniques to see what stories the water has to share. My first introduction to this remote sampling and sensing was a long-necked beverage bottle with a weight, retrieval line, and a cork that could be popped with a string. (And of course, duct tape to hold it all together.) Using it in the local pond and discovering that there were indeed differences between the surface and bottom temperatures was enough to pique my curiosity to move on to bigger things in college. This involved more sophisticated devices, typically named after the oceanographers that perfected them: Secchi, Nansen, Eckmann, Peterson and Niskin. All students of science and oceanography should study these pioneers and their struggles and achievements, but perhaps the foremost is Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)…arctic explorer, distinguished scientist and Nobel Laureate.

A storm petrel
A storm petrel

The Nansen bottle has been a standard water collection device since 1910 and when lowered by a strong line, can be signaled to close with a weighted “messenger” sent down the line to “fire” off a release mechanism that closes off a tube of water from any depth. The only limitation is the length of your line. Then that water can be brought to the surface for analysis of its physical features, nutrients and even contaminants washed into the sea or wafted from land. In 1966 Shale Niskin perfected a version of the bottle that today we will lower with eleven others on a circular frame called a rosette. These Niskin bottles can be signaled automatically to capture water at preprogrammed depths as the CTD device on the bottom of the frame records data. The CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) is one of today’s most important oceanographic tools. It is mounted on the rosette with the Niskin bottles and records the temperature and salinity of the layers of water, which allows oceanographers to trace the origins of the currents. The Brown has enough cable to lower it to 6,000 meters, but here in the Peru Basin, we are limited to less than 4,000 (Still deep enough to swallow any mountain east of the Mississippi, and most of the ones in the west.)

Data from the CTD cast
Data from the CTD cast

The crew does an amazing job holding the Brown on station, and can literally turn on a dime since the ship has fore and aft thrusters. When the seas are high and it is choppy, they maneuver into position by making a slow (right) turn to starboard (Where the rosette is deployed) so it is in the lee of the wind and much calmer. The turning creates a “pond” of flat water that also attracts seabirds, so I try to have my camera ready at all times. The whole process takes several hours and has to be done with great care and constant adjustments from the bridge since anything lowered over the side might become tangled with the rudder or propellers, its own cable, or otherwise be damaged or lost. The water brought up from depth in the Niskin bottle is collected for chemical analysis, salinity, dissolved oxygen and plankton samples. Nutrient bottles are quickly frozen for later analysis in the lab, plankton is preserved for identification under the microscope, and dissolved oxygen must be chemically tested immediately; so there is always a flurry of activity when the CTD finally is retrieved and in deck. Water on the surface is 18º and drops to 5º near the bottom. Salinity ranges between about 35.25 ppt on the surface and as low as 34.5 ppt at depth.

An NSF C-130 sampling information
An NSF C-130 sampling information

Personal Log 

There has been a good roll to the ship about every 10 seconds since we left port and after a few days your body anticipates it and I only notice the movement when I see water in a basin or the shower floor sloshing with it, or when something that is not secured bangs around. This movement approximates the wave period of the largest swells and they are generated by the constant winds drawn towards the Equator – the Trade Winds which merchant sailing vessels could always rely upon. In 1520, these same winds pushed Magellan northwest after crossing into the waters to our south that he called El Pacifico. When on deck, I have noticed a low and longer period swell from the west, which is a clue that there is some far off storm brewing. Or perhaps, since the Pacific is so wide, that like the light from distant stars, it has gone through its entire existence, dissipated, and its energy is just reaching us now…only a faint remembrance in the sea.

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I’ll take note of things over the next few days and look for changes like the Polynesians did when watching for storms. Higher, shorter period swells indicate that the storm is approaching. This gives you time to prepare for the large, short period, wind-driven seas that challenge ships and sailors.

“Look not to leeward for fine weather.” J. Heywood, 1546

This sailor’s expression helps illustrate the fact that because winds are generated by the pressure gradient between high and low air masses, tacking into the wind moves you closer to fairer weather than running with it. (In actuality, the high pressure, and hopefully fair weather, is about 90º to the pressure gradient.) That doesn’t always explain waves however. Wave size is determined by wind speed, duration and fetch (the distance over which the wind blows), and over the broad expanse of the Pacific, there can be many storms and wind patterns creating waves simultaneously.

Before physicists and meteorologists fined-tuned the mathematics, sailors had their own theories about waves. One observation was that the size of seas (waves in a storm) could be estimated by the wind speed…a storm with 60-knot winds might produce 60-foot waves. People tend to overestimate wave size, especially when at sea, and the theoretical height is probably only about 80% of that figure (Still a very sizable and terrifying mass of water if you are in the midst of it!).

“Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.” Shakespeare – The Tempest.

Another difficult aspect of wave behavior is estimating the velocity and distance between waves (wave period); and here we turn to the oceanographers and their experimental wave tanks. To try to understand waves at sea, it is much simpler to generate perfect swells in a controlled environment. Although wave behavior in a storm is chaotic and almost impossible to monitor accurately, there is good data on the swells that spread out from the fetch, and for that we turn to the ship’s “Bowditch.” (Nathanial Bowditch’s – American Practical Navigator).

So the 10 second swells rocking the ship are traveling at a speed of about 30-knots, and have a wavelength of over 500-feet; which means, among other things, smooth sailing for the Brown (and most of her passengers). I’ll continue to watch for signs of change and hopefully our fine weather will continue.

A breathtaking sunset
A breathtaking sunset

 

 

Dave Grant, November 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 11, 2008

Pilot boat alongside the Brown
Pilot boat alongside the Brown

Science and Technology Log 

The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared, Merrily did we drop, Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top – Coleridge

Finally, it is time to cast off. For days the scuttlebutt has kept us guessing about what has been holding up the cruise. It is approaching Midnight and dock workers have suddenly arrived, crew is adjusting lines and has flushed the birds, and new sounds and rumbling from the engine room are emanating through the deck. I am half asleep, lying in my bunk, and starting to hear announcements from the bridge that remind me of HAIKU:  All stations report. Testing bow thrusters. Visitors must leave the ship. Cast off lines. 

The Ron Brown has come to life! Leaving port is complicated since even the most experienced captain is usually in strange waters. For this reason, a local ship’s pilot is taken onboard to guide us. Thoreau wrote about the pilots off of Cape Cod in the 1800’s and describes how after lookouts spotted a vessel, pilots would race their sailboats to claim the fee for guiding the ship safely to port. Our pilot boarded with great fanfare and salutations from the deck hands. Even though it was calm, it can be dangerous transferring between vessels. Once aboard, he headed to the bridge to take over the wheel.

Close up of the radiosonde
Close up of the radiosonde

Hands-on training started immediately. Our first task was to use a sonde to take radio soundings of the atmosphere above the ship. Radiosondes are lifted by balloons and as they rise, broadcast atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity data to the ground station. (In this case the lab on the ship.)  This allows atmospheric scientists to record a slice of the air up through the cloud levels through most of the troposphere, where our weather is generated. Radiosondes can also be modified to conduct ozone and radioactivity soundings for pollution studies, but the emphasis of the VOCALS research is the marine layer and its interaction (linkage) between the ocean and atmosphere. Here in the Southeast Pacific, away from continents and major cities, the air should be some of the least polluted on the planet.

Radar reflectors and parachute accessories are available too, but not needed out here since recovery is not an option. Once the balloon reaches low enough air pressure, it expands too much and bursts, and the unit falls into the ocean. (Now, before you start worrying about sea turtles swallowing balloons and meteorologists littering the ocean…this was my first question, and I was told that these materials deteriorate rapidly once they are removed from the hermetically sealed foil containers.)

Many students will state that observing weather and collecting data was the “hook” that got them interested in science; and that certainly applies to me too. As an elementary student helping Mr. Giffin and Mr. “Z” set up mercury column barometers, and seeing 16mm movies of “real scientists” launching weather balloons, really piqued my curiosity. And here I am, so many years later, sending up my own balloons – and for that matter, launching them off a ship in the middle of the ocean!

The science of radiosondes has been around since before WWII and is fairly straight forward. First, read the SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS FOR BALLOON OPERATORS:

  • Do not use in an area with power lines or overhead obstructions.
  • Do not use without consultation and cooperation with aviation authorities. (We will not see any air traffic here, except the scheduled flyovers from VOCALS research aircraft.)
  • Use extreme caution if generating hydrogen gas. (No problem. We use helium; but I did have a flashback of our grandmother Hinemon’s tale about witnessing the Hindenburg explosion from the family farm near Lakehurst, NJ.)
  • The balloon film is only 0.05 mm thick upon launch, so ensure that there are no sharp or pointed objects nearby. (That seems pretty obvious now, doesn’t it Homer Simpson?)
  • And finally, the Dennis the Menace clause: It is not advisable to deflate the balloon if it is leaking. Instead, release the balloon without a load. 
Balloon with message that says, “Thanks TAS!”
Balloon with message that says, “Thanks TAS!”

The units we send aloft are made in Sweden and have a small GPS omni-directional receiving antenna that looks like an eggbeater; a 9-inch wire broadcast antenna; and a thin metal sensor “boom” for temperature and humidity. Power is supplied by a curious little low voltage battery that is activated when soaked in water for a few minutes while the sonde is calibrated by the radio receiver and computer. There are a dozen steps to remember for a successful flight.  First the unit is unpacked from its shipping container. Then it is checked to confirm it is functioning and calibrated to the local conditions of temperature, pressure and humidity; as well as the current latitude and longitude. Fortunately the ship monitors these conditions continuously, so you just have to punch in the numbers prior to release. There is a science to filling the balloons. Too much Helium and it rises too fast for the sensors to record good information. Too little Helium and it may hit the water and malfunction. (You don’t get any second chances!)

Once the balloon is filled, and any messages you wish to photograph are attached to it, clearance is requested from the bridge by letting the duty officer know you will be on the “lee side of the stern” to launch it. Just like when you are seasick…this keeps things blowing away from the boat, instead of in your face. I thought I was clever putting our college logo and president’s name on one, until I saw the Great Pumpkin – a well-decorated balloon that made it to a whopping 23,464 meters on Halloween! (Not to be outdone next time, I am working secretly at night on a Thanksgiving turkey design.) The wind has been remarkably gentle most days, but with the ship rocking and steaming ahead constantly, handling a large balloon while zigzagging across deck between equipment and storage boxes can be challenging, especially in the dark. Sounding balloons are sent up every four hours, so the work is shared by everyone. There is a friendly competition to see whose makes it the highest and gets the best data.

Data from the sounding balloon
Data from the sounding balloon

Note the details in the above image of data from a sounding balloon.  Air PRESSURE (Green line) decreases to 25.7 hPa and the balloon finally bursts. The unit then plunges back to the ocean and pressure increases back to “normal” sea level values. HUMIDITY (Blue line) shows three (3) peaks (About 95%, 75%, and 15%. The highest humidity is at sea level and when the sensor reaches cloud level. The next sharp peak is moisture moving south from the ITCZ (Meteorological Equator).  The small, wide peak is probably Cirrus clouds that were seen earlier before the lower Stratus clouds moved in to block our view. TEMPERATURE (Red line) decreases with height and humidity until the sonde reaches the Tropopause, then begins to rise where higher intensity UV light adds heat. At the top of the image, all three lines merge as the sonde plunges back to sea level.

From the flow of data while this remarkable little instrument is aloft, we can study the decreases in temperature and pressure, and the changes in humidity from sea level to the moment the balloon reaches the bottom of the clouds. An hour or two later, the computer screen even shows the poignant moment (For the launch person, at least), and the decent rate when the balloon bursts and falls back to Earth.

Directional data of balloon winds: Tracking of the sonde shows the direction is drifting in relation to the ship.
Tracking of the sonde shows drifting in relation to the ship.
GPS tracking of the sonde is accomplished with at least four ($) satellites
GPS tracking of the sonde is accomplished with at least four ($) satellites

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down and still somehow, It’s cloud’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.  – Joni Mitchell

A sunset launch
A sunset launch

Personal Log 

I have the best cabin on the ship! Below us is the freshwater tank – the Brown produces over 4,000 gallons of freshwater every day (About 30% more than is needed)  and the sloshing of all that water each time we rock not only drowns out the noise of the ship, but it sounds to me like I’m right on the surface of the water. Falling asleep, I dream that I’m Thor Heyerdahl on Kon-Tiki!

As soon as we hit the open sea you could see some people getting uncomfortable, but as always, “Doc” was on top of it dispensing sea-sickness tablets and in a very few cases, injections. Within a day everyone was moving about and within two days even the dizziest landlubber was up for duty and at every meal. There are few things worse than mal de mer. In part because, as the fishermen like to say, you can’t buy the boat from the captain once you are out there. Years ago on a long and stormy cruise to Madiera, I was issued an experimental device that was part of a NASA trial to treat motion sickness. It was a CD player with headphones that were flat plates fitted behind your ears, which sent out random vibrations to “reset” your middle ear. It reminded me of one of those hearing tests you got in grade school, and seemed to help. However, when I quizzed the ship’s surgeon Dr. Bob (Ex-marine, Vietnam-era Army helicopter pilot, emergency room specialist; trainee in NASA’s early space program, humanitarian and great storyteller) about how his gadget works, he only shrugged his shoulders and replied, “We haven’t a clue.”

An unbelievable sunset
An unbelievable sunset

As it turns out, even NASA doesn’t understand why 80% of us get motion sickness at some point in our lives; but current research is pointing away from the traditional disoriented “middle ear” hypothesis. Over the years I have had success with my own remedies, including: acupressure, ginger cubes, Coca-Cola (Not a commercial endorsement) and as a last resort, over-the-counter remedies with Meclizine. They seem to do the trick, but this night as we sail west to Point Alpha, all I needed to put myself to sleep was Richard Rodger’s soothing tango from the US Navy’s classic WWII Victory At Sea documentary – Beneath the Southern Cross.

“The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship.” (Sir William Monson’s “Naval Tracts”)

Words to check today: 

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Source information 

From Dave Grant’s collection of stories:

The world’s worst tale of seasickness? As told by Ulysses S. Grant in his Memoirs 

One amusing circumstance occurred while we were lying at anchor in Panama Bay. 

In the regiment there was a Lieutenant Slaughter who was very liable to seasickness. It almost made him sick to see the wave of a table-cloth when the servants were spreading it. 

Soon after his graduation [from West Point] Slaughter was ordered to California and took passage by a sailing vessel going around Cape Horn. The vessel was seven months making the voyage, and Slaughter was sick every moment of the time, never more so than while lying at anchor after reaching his place of destination. 

On landing in California he found orders that had come by way of the Isthmus [Panama], notifying him of a mistake in his assignment; he should have been ordered to the northern lakes. 

He started back by the Isthmus route and was sick all the way. But when he arrived back East he was again ordered to California, this time definitely, and at this date was making his third trip. He was sick as ever, and had been so for more than a month while lying at anchor in the bay. 

I remember him well, seated with his elbows on the table in front of him, his chin between his hands, and looking the picture of despair. 

At last he broke out, “I wish I had taken my father’s advice; he wanted me to go into the navy; if I had done so, I should not have had to go to sea so much.” 

Poor Slaughter! It was his last sea voyage. He was killed by Indians in Oregon. 

 

Dave Grant, November 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 10, 2008

Science and Technology Log 

“Ships and sailors rot at port.”  – Captain Horatio Nelson

Today is a bit frustrating for the science staff since we are delayed in our departure; although the crew doesn’t object to another day of restaurant meals and visits to town to make final purchases.

The Brown’s Meeting Room
The Brown’s Meeting Room

This gave the science and navigation team time to get up to speed on the cruise track, and view satellite images of what is happening offshore, and to determine the first waypoint of the ship – Point “Alpha.” Alpha is at -20° S, 075 W (That will put us 130-miles southwest of Arica, 1200-miles south of the Equator, and in 4,000-meters of water.) We will be at the same Longitude as Philadelphia, PA.  Surface and subsurface sampling of the sea and air is to be done at the same time air samples are captured by several aircraft passing overhead at different altitudes. Low passes by a slow-flying US Navy Twin Otter will take samples at the “boundary layer” where particles of salt spray and other particles are cast into the air by wave action; while higher passes are made by a much larger C-130 operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Simultaneously, meteorologists on the ship will be launching SONDES (Weather Sounding Balloons) that collect data on the air temperature, humidity and air pressure up to about 25,000 meters; and oceanographers will be taking water samples with a CTD meter (Conductivity, Temperature, Density) at the surface and down to 3,000-meters.

Rules and Regulations! 

“You’ll never get in trouble following orders.” Commander Tom Kramer – US Navy

Safety

 “One hand for the ship and one hand for yourself.” Onboard, the 3-Point Rule is in effect. Even at dock the ship can move, so you should always have three points of contact. (Two feet and at least one hand on a railing.) “Only YOU can prevent…!” Fire, not drowning, is the biggest hazard on a ship. Smoking is only permitted in the designated area outside the ship and at the stern.

“If it’s too hot, stay out of the kitchen!” This is an open ship, but for obvious safety reasons and to avoid interfering with operations, certain places like the engine room, machine shop and galley are generally off-limits. Inform the bridge of your activities and always wear your safety vest and helmet while on the fantail.

Health

“Wash your hands!” Living in close quarters requires good hygiene. Wash frequently since you are constantly touching doors and railings. Immediately report any injuries to the health officer “Doc.” Know the signs of seasickness and immediately seek attention if you feel dizzy, nauseous or groggy. Stay hydrated.

Courtesy

“Can you hear me now?” We were reminded that we will be working where people live (the crew), and to observe others’ privacy whenever possible. Earplugs were on our list of Items to bring and one quickly learns that there is always inherent mechanical noise on a ship in addition to any work sounds. Since the ship is metal, any vibrations from the constant scraping, grinding and chipping of rust by the maintenance crew can often be heard reverberating through several decks to the sleeping quarters; sounding like your worst nightmare about visits to the dentist. (And they start work early, and work late!)

Meals

The Galley staff serves dessert -sweet potato pie!
The Galley staff serves dessert -sweet potato pie!

“Eat it and beat it!” To paraphrase that old Army saying, a ship sails on its stomach too, and the first order of the day was food, meal times and consideration of the galley staff. Meals are closely spaced and on a tight schedule because of rotating schedules (Someone on the ship has to be maintaining power, scientific equipment and our course every minute.). Also, the kitchen is in a constant state of clean-up and prep for the next meal, which means the small staff must start at “0-Dark-Thirty” hours (Well before dawn) and is not finished until evening. Mealtime is not the time for chit-chat. Eat and make room for others who are coming off duty. Many WWII veterans admit that their motivation for joining the Navy was to be assured of warm chow. (And a dry bunk instead of a foxhole!) Regardless of your culinary tastes and dietary needs, they are met at every meal on this ship.  The cuisine…in a word?  Excellent! For those who are tardy, sleep late, like to spread out their meals, or are delayed because of  a sampling conflict or problem in the lab; the cooks are always considerate enough to leave out fruit, soup, leftovers, world-class dessert (On the rare event that any is left) and predictably, the old standby – peanut butter and jelly. 

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Emergencies

Abandon ship drill - Fitting survival suits
Abandon ship drill – Fitting survival suits

“This is a Drill!” The earsplitting ship’s bell keeps everyone aware of any serious problems. There are three signals you must respond to without hesitation: “HEL-LO Gumby” Everyone has seen or used a life jacket, but the Brown’s bright orange ones are specially designed equipment with the ship’s name on the back, reflector tape, an oversized whistle, and a strobe-light that is activated automatically when it comes in contact with the water. Since they are fairly thick, they also make good windbreakers when you are on deck; so there is little excuse not to wear them. Survival suits are oversized orange neoprene “dry” suits like the ones divers wear. Putting them on during our weekly drills is quite and adventure for the first time, but this is serious business and we are all checked out by the Safety Officer. And yes, you do look like the cartoon character, especially when you are walking in your “Jumbo Immersion Suit.”

“The two-man rule” Any doctor will tell you that nothing is better for allergies than an ocean cruise, and the air here between the desert and sea is very refreshing. However, in the confines of the ship we must be aware of gases like Nitrogen and Helium that the scientists need to operate analytical equipment, and since the ship has large and powerful engines, Carbon Monoxide is always a consideration. When working with these gases and in tight quarters, we were reminded to have a partner, while the Safety Officer trained us on the 10-minute rescue breathers in our cabins.

Interesting observation: One sign that odorless, suffocating gases are present is that someone passes out while you are talking to them. (Certainly THAT is every teacher’s worst nightmare!). We are also issued an EEBD (Emergency Evacuation Breathing Device) which would give us 10 minutes of air to escape such a situation. Feeling informed, safe and secure, we were given one very important final tip from the maintenance crew: “Please don’t flush anything down the head besides toilet paper and whatever your last meal was!”  We are ready to go to sea. 

Emergency breathing device - Demonstration by safety Officer
Emergency breathing device – Demonstration by safety Officer

Personal Log 

There may be miles of cordage on a ship: Line (Thin rope), Rope (Thick rope more than 1-3/4 inches in circumference) and hawser (Really thick rope at least 5-inches in circumference). Hawsers are used to secure and tow the largest ships.  As many as ten bow, stern, breast and spring lines, ropes and hawsers secure a vessel to the wharf.

Returning to the Brown after a long day hiking around and hoping to see some unusual wildlife during our last hours of “shore leave” I noticed the gang plank was moving back-and-forth appreciably, even though the harbor was flat calm. At the beach I enjoyed watching thunderous “overhead” surf breaking on the point and speculated about what sea conditions would be like at our rescheduled Midnight departure. Back in the harbor, the circular, movement of the ship was confirmation that there was a good long period swell refracting around the breakwater and setting the port’s water in motion. Watching the ship’s lines tighten and slacken at regular intervals of about a minute, I imagined the Brown was telling us she was biting at the bit to sail! Checking the lines I realized the hawsers had become a perfect roost for Inca terns; a bird I had searched for in vain at the shore – hoping to spot at least one before the end of my trip. The Inca tern (Larosterna inca) is the most distinctive of this gregarious group of seabirds. Rare elsewhere, it is fairly common along the coasts of Chile and Ecuador…and becoming increasingly abundant on the Brown! At night they outnumber every other bird in the port.

Brown at dock with birds gathering on lines
Brown at dock with birds gathering on lines

Birds of a feather flock together and this is certainly the case with terns. They roost, breed and fish in groups, often made up of different, but similar-looking, mostly grey and white species. Identifying them can be a challenge; except in the case of the dark grey Inca tern. Its red bill and especially its whiskered facial plumes separate it from its cousins, and all seabirds. Terns are my favorite group of birds and they have a cat-like aloofness when it comes to tolerating people. Sailing home from fishing trips in New Jersey waters, I usually have plenty of bait left over (Testimony to my questionable fish-finding ability.) and I soon learned that our common and least terns in Sandy Hook Bay are happy to dive down and perform fantastic midair catches of the bait I toss off the stern. These sharp-eyed hunters never seem to miss, and for me this is often the best part of the trip.

Terns on the hawser
Terns on the hawser

I thoroughly enjoyed my night with the whiskered terns, photographing them and watching their behavior. The birds were most crowded on the thick hawsers at the bow and stern. (Unlike perching birds like robins, most seabirds are flat-footed and can’t grip a perch.) There are two lines at each end of the ship (An inner and outer) and they behave differently – the outer lines stretching more but less gracefully, and occasionally shuttering. Also, the inner lines were better lit by the harbor lights than the outer lines. What follows is some of my data-driven research on the topic of Inca terns: It appears that some subtle differences encourage a definite hierarchy in the arrangement of the birds on the lines. Between 7075% of the group were adults (with their fancy plumes and dark coloration), however they were not distributed randomly. Almost all of the birds on the inner lines were always adults, and the juveniles (brown, “clean-shaven” and with less colorful bills) were banished to the outer lines. I monitored them for many hours and the whole group regularly would take off, even if only a few were disturbed (A typical tern behavior sometimes called “panic flights.”). They would circle out over the harbor, squawk a bit, and then return to sort themselves out at the lines. Adults would always jockey for space and replace any younger birds settled in the prime locations by hovering over them and making a few squawks and stabs with their bill. I never saw juveniles dislodge adults.

Balancing flat-footed Inca tern
Balancing flat-footed Inca tern

I also noticed some courtship behavior with the terns. This involves catching a small fish and offering it to your prospective bride; and since it only occurred between adults, I assume that like the gulls at the beach, they were approaching their breeding season too. At one point before it was too dark, a large gull wandered across the parking lot and was immediately dive-bombed and chased away (More typical tern behavior near colonies). There may even have been birds on eggs inside the few select hollow openings in the wharf’s walls, since individual birds stationed themselves at the dark entrances, defending them from others that tried to land there. Hmmm…Are Inca terns cavity nesters…cliff nesters…beach nesters? There is so much to learn about Inca terns….So many birds, so little time!

Dave Grant, November 8-10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 8-10, 2008

From the top of El Morro, NOAA Teacher at Sea, Dave Grant, points to the Ron Brown anchored offshore.
From the top of El Morro, NOAA Teacher at Sea, Dave Grant, points to the Ron Brown anchored offshore.

Science and Technology Log 

Chile is due south of Portland, Maine; and Santiago, its capital, largest city and main gateway for international visitors is about 5235 miles from my home in New Jersey (By my crude flight calculations). Sometimes called the London of South America, it is as modern and upscale as some US cities. Chile is huge and diverse; it’s more than half the length of South America and bigger than Texas. Its 2666-mile (4300-Km) coastline stretches from the sub-tropical areas and deserts in the north, across the Tropic of Capricorn (The southernmost point where the sun reaches the Winter Solstice), through agriculturally important Mediterranean and Temperate climates at its middle, to the frigid tip of the continent at Tierra del Fuego.

Chileans are friendly, good natured and known for their hospitality towards visitors. Although the population is described as mestizo (A mixture of European and indigenous bloodlines) Aymara Indians in the North and Mapuche Indians in the South still follow many of their traditional ways of working the land. After a short stay in Santiago, another 1,040 miles and two flights up the coast put us in the port of Arica, the capital of northern Chile, where we were to meet the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown.

Location of the VOCALS project
Location of the VOCALS project

Arica is squeezed between the nearly rainless Atacama Desert of Peru, one of the driest places on Earth, and one the widest and island-free portions of the South Pacific. It is a week’s sail to “westernmost” Chile, Easter Island in the southwest; the home of the giant Moai statues and the most remote population of Polynesians. Arica is known as La Ciudad de la eternal primavera -“The city of the eternal spring” and is a busy but pleasant commercial center; the export/import hub for the region. Arriving before the ship’s departure allowed time for two worthwhile endeavors: sitting in on meetings with scientists who were reviewing their projects and exploring this fascinating part of the world. Over 50 researchers and technicians met at the Hotel Arica, on the shore just south of the city. Discussed in detail were various aspects of VOCALS (VAMOS Ocean Cloud Atmosphere Land Study). VAMOS refers to Variability of the American Monsoon Systems – the seasonal changes of wind patterns. Atmospheric scientists presented overviews on large scale wind movements, rain and cloud-forming particles (nuclei) in the air.

Mullet and mussels at the fish market
Mullet and mussels at the fish market

Oceanographers discussed the movement of rings (50-mile wide cores or eddies of circulating water bodies) in the main study area designated ORS* – the Stratus Ocean Reference Station – a curious region hundreds of miles off of Chile with persistent stratocumulus cloud cover. Satellite images, radar, air samples taken by various aircraft and balloons, and water samples brought to the surface from hundreds of meters below are analyzed to study this expanse to better understand the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere, as well as influences on climate.  Meteorologists sometimes tease their colleagues that oceanography is a small aspect of weather science. The atmosphere and ocean are linked by exchanges of energy, and the currency for this interaction is water vapor. Major mechanisms for energy transfer in the ocean are exhibited by  great water currents – “Rivers in the sea” as Mathew Maury described them – like the Gulf Stream of North America, and the Humboldt (or Peru) Current off of the western coast of South America.

Personal Log 

Tidepools at Isla de Alacran
Tidepools at Isla de Alacran

Since the ship was not fully loaded, the galley closed and much of the crew on shore-leave, we were free to explore the town’s small shops and restaurants at its center. My first stop is always the outdoor markets to see what is being raised and caught locally, and there are some interesting choices here besides fishes, including: muselina, cangrejo, limpa, percebe. (Mussels, rock crabs, limpets and barnacles.)  Then, after enjoying a meal of this interesting nugget that I couldn’t help copying verbatim from the local menu…Pastel de jabus en su greda (“Cake baked carb whit cheese in his clay pot”)…it was off to explore the shore.

There are small pocket beaches here with ghost crab burrows; and I found a nice assortment of bivalves and univalves for my collection. There were also many empty squid egg cases that were as thin and white as tissue paper. In spite of the cool waters (60’s), children don’t hesitate jumping in the waves or sitting in the tide pools gouged in the rocks. These pools are a perfect spot for the budding marine biologist to study or play, and are filled with barnacles, pretty striped snails, and kelp. In the larger ones, small fish stranded by the tides dart for cover when they see your shadow; and other residents – little dark blennies, that match the color of the  rocks and probably spend their lives in these havens, safe from bigger predators.

Barnacles and a drill snail in a tidepool
Barnacles and a drill snail in a tidepool

Higher up the tideline where the wash of the waves – the life support of the littoral zone –  diminishes, barnacles disappear and the main residents are durable little snails grazing on algae, and enduring harsher conditions of temperature and salinity that other creatures cannot. William Beebe wrote of his little periwinkle…”when a race of creatures develops an ability to clothe itself in impregnable marble palaces, immune to a host of dangers which threatens less armoured brethren, there is little need of their changing to meet new conditions.”  The uppermost depressions in the rocks collect salt spray or ocean water during the spring tides which quickly turns to brine in the dry air and afternoon sunshine. I find the coast here reminiscent of Southern California in many ways. Sturdy foot gear is in order since much of the coast is either eroding cliffs or rocky wave washed marine terrace. This is the realm of rugged creatures like limpets, snails and barnacles that must hold or cement themselves to the rock face. It is also the haunt of the colorful Sally Lightfoot, a lively semi-terrestrial crab that darts into crevices as soon as it sees you move, or in anticipation of the next wave – whichever comes first.

Black Oystercatchers
Black Oystercatchers

Picking at whatever morsels they can catch among the rocks are groups of ruddy turnstones; tall, stately and wary curlews; and noisy and very nervous black oystercatchers. The oystercatchers have a loud squeak-toy call and announce their presence regularly to intruders like me and each other, so although discrete, they are easy to find. Grey gulls (Larus modestus) live up to their Latin name only when it comes to appearance. Since this is the Autumnal spring, hundreds of them put on a continuous and raucous show along the shore, calling to each other in courtship pursuits, or in pursuit of any working fishing boat that passes. Some birds like the striking band-tailed gull habituate to people and are common around the docks and anywhere fishermen are cutting up their catch. Others, like the Peruvian booby, fly away whenever you approach them. The boobies and their cousins the cormorants, are responsible for the guano cliffs south of Arica, and a short trip to the end of the coast road brings you to a path that leads along the white-washed precipice through a series of caves.

Geoglyphs on a hillside
Geoglyphs on a hillside

The presence of seabirds is a clue to the productivity of ocean waters, and the legendary abundance of boobies, cormorants, pelicans and gulls (and their guano) along this coast and especially across the border, confirms it. The guano islands of Peru that were mined for their rich fertilizer, harbor the world’s largest colony of seabirds, some 10 million strong. The upwelling of nutrient-rich deep waters here helps produce perhaps one fifth of the world’s annual fish catch. By lunchtime the camanchaca (coastal fog) cleared “as it always does” and I negotiated a history and cultural tour with a very agreeable taxi driver named Federico. In spite of my poor knowledge of Spanish, he was able to make it a very educational afternoon. First stop was inland to the Azapa valley and the Museo Arqueologico which specializes in cultural artifacts from the various groups that inhabited this harsh environment from the 7th Century BC until the Spanish “invasion” and colonial period. The earliest inhabitants fished and hunted fur seals and sea lions, and must have struggled constantly with their environment because of the lack of water and building materials. However they did leave behind evidence of their accomplishments: tools like fish hooks fashioned from cactus spines, weaved materials and most significantly (to the archaeologists) cementerios with clay-covered mummies – said to be the oldest in the world. Three are exhibited: a man, woman and child.

Aduana – The old Custom house
Aduana – The old Custom house

They also invented and left behind their own brand of graffiti on the barren hills – Geoglyphs. By arranging dark stones on the light dusty hillsides, they created large and highly visible outlines of people and animals, especially llamas. South of Arica is the Giant of the Andes – said to be the largest in existence. I was told these images are a type of ancient trailside billboard, which would have guided pack trains. Climbing up one steep hill to line up a photograph of a very distant condor geoglyph, I stumbled and fell flat on my back – much to the delight of Federico and a friendly dog hoping for a treat from picnickers. I wonder how long my dust angel, The Gringo of the Andes(?) will remain here, untouched by wind and rain.

On our way back to town we passed many farms where drip irrigation allows the cultivation of hedgerows of tomatoes, and of course, corn. Olives are an important crop too and the trees that the Spanish introduced are some of the largest and oldest plants in the valley. I made a mental note to pick up some of the local products to bring home to New Jersey as gifts: Aceitede Olivia (Olive oil) and a delicious Mango Chutney.  In town we visited the restored 1874 customs house (Aduana) which, to my surprise, was designed by none other than Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Besides designing the support structures for his famous tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty, he is responsible for a number of buildings and bridges here in South America.   

Puerto de Arica from El Morro
Puerto de Arica from El Morro

Looming over the city and harbor is El Morro. At 330 meters it offers an incomparable vista of the entire area, including a birds-eye view of surfers and windsurfers taking advantage of the consistent southeasterly breeze and swell. Birds are in constant motion too, benefiting from the updraft on the steep cliff and circling it effortlessly. Vultures are the most common, and I made eye contact with a large red-tailed hawk soaring directly in front of us. At one point three falcons of different sizes were engaged in aerial combat, diving upon each other and then wheeling high above; the smallest being the noisiest and most aggressive; perhaps defending an eyrie below us. After a glorious sunset over the sea, the wind died down “as it always does” and the cool layer of marine air moved inland. Once it was dark, the park downtown erupted in music at several locations, including what I would describe as a head-banger concert that was loud enough to cause me to retreat back to the hotel to instead be sung to sleep (as the poets say) by the mewing of the nearby gladness of gulls. 

*(ORS refers to a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) buoy moored at 20º South/85º West, in the center of a vast region of cloud cover in the South East Pacific (SEP). Similar cloud regions occur off of the coasts of West Africa, California, the Western Atlantic and Western Australia, but this one is the largest and most important in modifying weather.)

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 16, 2008

Falcon
Falcon

Science Log

This bird came by for a visit. I think is a type of hawk or a falcon. Can anyone identify it for me? We have been trying but can’t seem to figure out what kid of hawk this is. In any case, it stopped by and perched on the bow just out of the blue when we were about 80 miles from shore. I wonder how it got here? Was it blown out to sea by a storm? Did it follow a ship looking for food? Is it lost? I hope it finds its way back.

It was foggy during the early morning and the ship had to blow its fog horn. I found out that ships use a code when they sail. One long blast means we are steaming ahead. One long and two short blasts means we have equipment such as nets in the water and cannot manuver as quickly. Listen by clicking here.

We found more spoon armed octopi. Can you see that one of the arms has a little spoon like object at the end? The male has an arm shaped like a spoon. Can you see it in this picture?

Octopii
Octopii
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.

A sea anemone. This opens up and tenticles appear. They wave their tenticles in the water to collect food. When fish like Nemo, the clown fish, go into a sea anomone, it will sting the fish, so the clown fish backs in which helps it tolerate the sting.

Sea anemone
Sea anemone

Here is an interesting story: We were approaching a station where we were expecting to take a sample from the water with our nets. Do you see the note in the chart that says “Unexploded Ordinance?” (you can click on the chart to make it bigger). that means there are bombs from an old ship that may still be active! We decided to move our trawl to a nearby area. When we did, look what came up in the nets! Part of an old ship! The coordinates are Latitude: 42°27’23.65″N and Longitude: 68°51’59.12″E. Here is that location on Google Earth. What could have happened way out here? CLE students, tell me the story of that wreck. Be creative. Please print them out and leave them for me on Monday. Make them fun to read. I am bringing back what came up in the net for you to see. When I get back, we will see if we can do some research and find out what really happened!

Now lets meet Phil Politis, our Chief Scientist on board the Bigelow. I asked him to tell us about his job. Here is what he said:

chart2-740911The main job of a chief scientists is to meet the goals and objectives of the the scientific mission. In our case, that is, to pair up with the ship Albatross in as many stations as possible, following their route. My day to day job is to coordinate with the officers, and crew, setting the nets properly, make sure that the samples are processed properly and solving problems as they arise. Say we have an issue with the nets. It is the chief scientists job to decide what to do next. I can accept the tow, code it as a problem, or re-do the tow. I have to look at each issue individually. If we tear on the bottom, will it happen again? Is there time to re-tow? I also coordinate with the other vessel.

My title is fisheries biologist, but I am a specialist in the nets. My background is in trawl standardization. We have to ensure that our nets are constructed, maintained and that we fish same way each time. Small changes in nets can effect how the nets fish and that effects the study. That way we can compare this years catch to next years catch. Remember, this study is called a time series. Over time, you can see changes to fish population. The only way you can trust those numbers is if the nets are the same each time we put them in the water year after year, tow after tow. We have to document what we are doing now so that in the future, people know how and what we were doing. This way the time series remains standard. We have to standardize materials the nets are made of, way they are repaired. We inspect the nets each time we come on here. We train the deck crews in the maintenance and repair of our nets.

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IMG_6818-772778In answer to many of your questions, I will be back to SOCSD on Monday. I’ll be in WOS on Monday and CLE on Tuesday. See you then.

Mrs. Christie-Blick’s Class:

You asked some AMAZING questions. I’m so proud of you guys. Drl Kunkel was impressed as well. Here is what He told me:

You asked: What is your proof that these lobster shells are softer than other lobster shells? How do you measure hardness:

We have an engineering department at U Mass and one of the projects they have to do to become materials engineers is to test for hardness and they do an indentation test. Another way is to shoot x rays at shell and we can tell how hard it is by how the x rays scatter.

You asked: What is causing the harmful bacteria in the water?

We don’t know if they are harmful bacteria. My theory is that it could be the same normal bacteria that are on the backs of healthy lobsters. We think it is the weakness in the new lobster shells because of environmental influences south of Cape Cod that causes the trouble.

You asked: Can you get rid of the harmful bacteria?

It is possible to reverse the environmental conditions that have been created by us or by mother nature.

You are right about these sources of pollution. Good thinking. And yes, Dr. Kunkel believes that one or more of these factors may be hurting the lobsters. The problem area is south of Cape Cod. Look on a map today and count the number of cities between New York and Boston. Is this an area with a lot of people and pollution or is this an area that is sparsely populated?How would you expect this area to compare to areas where the lobster population is healthier off of Maine and Nova Scotia? Do the problem areas for the lobster and the pollution occur in the same area? If they match, scientists say there is a correlation between the two and they wonder if one is causing the other. What do you think?

Hag fish did gross me out a little. Interestingly, there is no way to determine the age of this fish as there are with others, so I’m not sure we can even tell you how long they live.

Several of you asked about the red dots on the lobster. They are a disease. It is called shell disease.

The lobster on the right is healthy. I just love this picture so I thought I would share it.

SR, the water temperature is about 16 degrees C last time I checked.

MF, nice to meet you. It is really cool to be a Teacher At Sea.

DTR, my favorite thing about this trip is working with you guys from the middle of the ocean.

MR, Snuggy and Zee are having loads of fun touring the ship.

CF: I will try to count the teeth of a fish and tell you what I find. Sometimes they are hard to see. I do not know if I am going back next year, but I hope so. I like being at sea. The truth is, I like being on land too. Both are nice. Thanks for writing.

BS: No, we find mostly adults, but some babies. Many creatures are small as adults.

BV: We have seen lots of jellyfish. We had so many we had to hose down the lab at the end of our session the other day. They were everywhere.

GS: We will continue to take samples here.

TL and Many Others asked how long we put the cups down for: We put the cups down for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it takes to lower the CTD to the bottom. When it gets to the bottom, it comes right back up. Thanks all for writing.

AS: Right you are!

Good job calculating all those who got 984 feet!

MM, I love the adventures I’m having here and the people I am meeting. It has been fun. I like being on land too.

JS, Dr. Kunkel took samples from some lobsters so he could help cure the disease.

KF: Could the hag fish bit us? Yes, Mel Underwood, our Watch Chief was very careful as she held the bag and backed her hands up when the fish got close to her hands. Mel is very experienced working with sea life and I have never seen her back off the way she did with this thing.

HRF: Go for it! It is a cool job!

CF: Good question. No, your bones are a lot stronger than styrofoam, so you would have to go down many miles to hurt yourself, and you could not swim that far without gear. When divers get hurt from pressure changes, it is usually something different called the bends. This happens when you are swim up to fast and certain gases in your blood stream expand as the pressure increases and form bubbles that can hurt you. Divers have to swim up slowly (the usual rule is don’t go up faster than the air bubbles next to you) in order to avoid getting the bends.

DC: Good questions: The dots are not bacteria on the lobster, they are the result of the bacteria eating away parts of the shell. The actual bacteria are too small to see. Good question about he temperature relating to growth. It is a bit more complex than that. There are many factors at work. The factor that may be causing more bacteria are chemicals like fertilizers from land getting into the water.

Dr. Kunkel came on board to study lobsters. He is a biologist, not a medical doctor. There are many scientists on board working with us, and me with them.

The quadrent is an old invention. People have been able to find their way with the stars for thousands of years. It is an ancient art. It was fun to practice it here.

SF, VF and others: The fish stayed in the bag. We made sure of that. From the bag, we put it back in the sea.

SD, sorry, I can’t help you there. I don’t think a pet skate would survive the trip back to NY.

Several of you have asked if I have gotten sick. No, I have not.

How many lobsters have we caught so far? Lots!

SS, sleeping on a boat if fun. If the waves are small, they rock you to sleep. If they are huge, however, they throw you out of bed!’

CP: bacteria infect the shells of the lobsters. This destroys the protection that the lobster should have. They grow weak and die of other causes. Good question!

Why do we work at night? Because ships work 24 hours a day so that no time is wasted. I ended up on the night shift. Why do we wear suits? To stay warm and dry on deck.

The hagfish eat shrimp and small fish, though they are scavengers and can eat large creatures as well.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class, you guys are doing some great work. I check on the skates for you. Some skates have protection, like thorns or spikes. They also have some interesting fins that look almost like feet. They use these to “walk” along the bottom searching for food. I know you asked about skates, but I have to mention the ray I worked with yesterday. It is related to the skate and could shock with an electrical charge for both protection and for hunting prey. Cool!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 15, 2008

Using the sextant
Using the sextant

Science Log

Our study of creatures on the bottom of the sea has been done every year for 45 years. In fact, it is the longest series of data for fish, in the world. Why is this important? I asked Dr. Michael Fogarty, head of the Ecosystems Assessment Program, at the Northeast Fisheries Sciences Center in Woods Hole, MA.

Mr. T: This is the longest uninterrupted time series of a trawl survey anywhere in the world. Is that important?

Dr. Fogarty: Really important because the changes that we are observing occur over long periods of time due to fishing and climate and other factors, so we need to track these changes to see how individual fish species are doing and to see how the ecosystem itself is responding to these changes.

Mr. T: What have you found?

Processing samples
Processing samples

We have found overall in the 45 years that we have been doing this survey, the number of fish has remained the same, but the types of fish have changed. In Georges bank, we would have mostly cod, flounder in the past, now we have small sharks, skates, which are relative of the rays.

Mr. T: What does that mean in terms of the ecosystem?

Dr. Fogarty: It has changed the entire food web because, for example, these small sharks we are seeing are ferocious predators. Because these dog-fish prey on other species, they keep the fish we usually like to eat down in number

Mr. T: Why is that happening?

Dr. Fogarty: Our hypotheseis is that because the some fish have been hurt by too much fishing, the other fish have come in to take their place.

IMG_7042-735252I thought about that for a while. It means this ecosystem has been effected by something called Overfishing and something called climate change. I started wondering about all the different factors that might have effected the environment we are studying. There are so many! Let’s look at some of the may things that human beings have done that have changed this ecosystem in the 45 years we have been doing this study. Dr. Fogarty and I talked about this and then we created talked about this mini website for you. Click each problem area to learn more.

Remember the other day when I tried to use a sextant to fix our position? I could not even get close, so today, I took a lesson with one of the NOAA Corps officers on board, Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew Seaman. Click here to come along.

IMG_6866-762848Elsewhere on the ship, Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the dive locker on the ship. This is the area on the ship where SCUBA gear is stored. We are not using SCUBA on this trip, but it was fun to visit the locker and see all the gear. Snuggy and Zee learned that the crew can actually fill up the air bottles they need right on the ship. They have all the equipment they need to do work underwater right here on the ship.

We had a fire drill yesterday. I know you are all familiar with fire drills, because we have them at school. When we do them at school, we often practice evacuating the building and calling the fire department. Well, at sea, things work a little differently. We have to get away from danger, but then, we have to practice putting out the fire as well. After all, there is no fire department to call way out here! Click here for a video.

Finally, so many of you asked about dangerous creatures that we have caught. This torpedo ray does have an electrical charge to it. The ray can zap you if you are not careful. I used rubber gloves to keep from getting hurt. The hardest part was holding the thing while we took the picture. I kept dropping it becuase it was so slimy!

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AT: I have not been frightened by anything on the ship or in the sea that we have seen. The hag-fish did seem gross. Very gross. Other than that, no.

Hi SP, I enjoy Korean food very much and have eaten lots of crab roe. It does not gross me out at all. Thanks for writing.

NV, Zee and Snuggy are just fine. Thanks for asking.

Mrs. B’s Class: I’m glad you liked the blog. We found the dead whale 100 miles or so off of Cape Cod. There are no sea snakes here. The water is too cold. I’m kind of glad about that!

Hello Mrs. Graham’s Class. I am staying nice and warm. Even working on deck, it is not too cold. We could stay out for several more weeks without a problem. Do you know what we use to make electricity? See if you can figure that out. We have to go back to port before we run out of that.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class: Very interesting. Our chief Scientists says that they can tell the whales don’t like barnicles because whales without them don’t behave in quite the same way.
This particular fish, which we call a monk fish or a goose fish has all the adaptations you mentioned. You did very well thinking those up. The Chief Scientist, Phil Politis and I are both impressed. He says that the fish hides in the mud (that is why it is brown), which keeps it hidden from predators. It has another adaptation, the illicium which we are calling a fishing rod. This adaptation lures smaller fish to the monkfish. Since it does not move around as much as many other fish, it can stay safer from predators.

Hello to Mrs. Coughlin’s Class, Mrs. Berubi’s Class. I’m glad you like the blog.

NN, I’ll be back next week. Because the crew and I, as well as a few birds are the only land-creatures we have seen out this far! Thanks for writing.

Hi Jennnifer. Thanks for your kind words and thanks for checking in on the blog.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 14, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 14 2008

Here is Doctor Kunkel collecting samples with Watch Chief Mel Underwood.
Here is Doctor Kunkel collecting samples with Watch Chief Mel Underwood.

Science Log

Dr. Joseph Kunkel from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is investigating a mystery on board our ship. In the last few years, fisherman and biologists have all noticed that lobsters are disappearing from waters south of cape cod near shore. This includes Narragansett Bay and our own Long Island Sound. Why? Thats’ what Dr. Kunkel is trying to find out.

He and other scientists have found that the lobsters are infected with a bacteria. Dr. Kunkel has a hypothesis. He believes that some lobsters get the bacteria because their shells are not as strong as other lobsters and don’t protect them as well. He is here collecting samples to test his hypothesis.

Shellfish are affected by acid rain
Shellfish are affected by acid rain

He has even made a discovery. He and another scientist, named Dr. Jercinovic, discovered that this shell fish actually has boney material in certain places in the shell. The boney material helps make the lobster strong enough to resist the bacteria. Effected lobsters may not have as much bone, so their shells are weaker. Why are the shells weaker? There may be a few reasons. The water South of Cape Cod is warmer than it normally is. Climate change may be to blame. The water has a lot of pollution from cities like New York and Boston. There are many streams and rivers pouring into the area that are Affected by acid rain. All of these things may effect the lobsters in the sea. They may effect other creatures in the sea as well. Can you think of things that are happening in our neighborhood that may contribute to this problem? Post your ideas on the blog and I will share them with Dr. Kunkel. What does shell disease look like? Can you see the red spots on the photo on the right? That is shell disease. It can get much worse. Thanks Dr. Kunkel for sharing your work and your photograph.

Cups are ready!
Cups are ready!

The art teachers, Mrs. Bensen in CLE and Mrs. Piteo in WOS had groups of students decorate Styrofoam cups for an experiment on the ship involving technology, water pressure in science and perspective in art. You probably have felt water pressure. When you swim to the bottom of the deep end of a pool, you may have felt your ears pop. This is water pressure. It is caused by the weight of the water on top of you pushing down on you. Well, a pool is only 10 or 12 feet deep. Just imagine the pressure at 600 feet down. We wanted to do an experiment with water pressure. Since Styrofoam is has a lot of air in it, we wanted to see what happened when we sent the decorated cups to the bottom of the sea. Click here for a video and see for yourself. If you decorated a cup, you will get it back when I come in next week.

Here are some more interesting creatures that came up in our nets overnight. We have been in deeper water and some some of the creatures have been quite interesting.

This “sea pen” is a type of soft coral.
This “sea pen” is a type of soft coral.
Two sea-hags
Two sea-hags

This is a sea-hag. It is a snake-like fish that has some amazing teeth. We put one inside a plastic bag for a few minutes to watch it try to eat its way out. Take a look at this video to see what happened.

Spoon Arm Octopi
Spoon Arm Octopi

Here are three Spoon Arm Octopi. Each octopi has three hearts, not one. One pumps blood through the body and the other two pump blood through the gills. There are three octopi in this photo. How many hearts to they have in all?

Red fish
Redfish

This redfish are also an interesting criters. When they lay eggs, you can see the babies inside. They live in deep water. We caught this one at a depth of 300 meters. How many feet is that?

Squid and sea star
Squid and sea star

Here is a bobtail squid and a sea-start. The squid looks like an octopus, but it is not.

Skate case with a baby skate inside
Skate case with a baby skate inside

This skate case had a baby skate inside. Here is what it looked like as the tiny creature emerged.

Crab and eggs
Crab and eggs

Finally, the red on the underside of this crab are the eggs. Biologists call them roe.

Zee and Snuggy paid a visit to the ship’s hospital to take a look around. The hospital is amazing. They are able to treat a wide variety of injuries and ailments without having to call for help. They can even put in stiches if they need to. In cases of serious injury, however, the Coast Guard would have to take the patient to land with the helicopter or fast boat. Zee and Snuggy had a great time touring the hospital, and all three of us are just fine.

IMG_6859-737787

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 13, 2008

Old fashioned navigation
Old fashioned navigation

Science Log

Happy Columbus Day everyone, and, since were in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right, Thanksgiving. Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. So a special note to my son Nicky: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  Back to Columbus Day, though. Since that’s probably what your all talking about at home. In honor of Columbus Day, I thought I would try something interesting.

I made a replica of the instrument Columbus used to navigate his ship. It is called a Quadrant. Columbus would sight the North Star with his quadrant and measure its angle above the horizon. That angle is equal to your latitude. He used a quadrant to measure that angle.

A quadrant
A quadrant

This is what a quadrant looks like. You hold it up so you can see the star you want in your site. The weighted rope simply falls over the scale of numbers and indicates the angle. What instrument in math looks like this? Post your answers on the blog if you think you know. So did I beat the GPS? You will have to watch this video to find out.

Want to try sighting the North Star yourself? Here is how: Find the Big Dipper. Trace an imaginary line from the spoon up. The first bright star you come to is the North Star. Want to find our more about using the stars to find your way, or Celestial Navigation, click here.

We are fairly far out to sea right now. There is a point of land in Nova Scotia, Canada about 100 miles to our north, but most land is around 200 to our west. We are seeing a lot of off-shore birds like the Shearwaters pictured here. These little birds spend most of their lives in the open water feasting on fish. They come on shore only to breed, so landlubbers don’t see them very much. What a treat. They were part of a large flock that was foraging in the nets yesterday afternoon during a tow.

Seabirds
Seabirds

We also have a few land birds on board. They may have been blown out to sea by storms and have stopped on our ship for a rest. Several were eating what they could find out of the nets on deck yesterday. The nets on the Bigelow have 6 sensors, each reporting different variables, such as depth, the width of the net opening and the height of the opening back to the scientists on deck. One of the sensors stopped working and had to be replaced yesterday. Take a look at this video of how the repair was done.

The water temperature outside is changing. It is now much colder than it was. When we were further west, we were towards a warm current called the Gulf Stream that moves north along the east coast of the USA. The water was about 63 degrees. Now we are in a cold water current called the Labrador Current. This current brings water south from the Arctic along the Canadian coast and ends in the Gulf of Main. The water here is about 55 degrees or so. We are not seeing the dolphins anymore and some of the science crew thing the water temperature may be too cold for them. Take a look at this map of the water temperatures. Brighter colors are warmer in this picture. We have moved from the warmer greener colored water into the cooloer blue colored water. The red line represents our course.

Water temperature illustration
Water temperature illustration

WOS students who have not had a chance yet, should compare our ship to the one Columbus Sailed. Go back and look through the blog at the pictures of Snuggy and Zee in the different parts of our ship to help you. Post your answers on the blog. Finally, something very interesting came up in our nets today. We got this off the bottom in 1000 feet of water. It is wood. Clearly cut and shapped by a person and for a purpose. It appears to have been down there for a long time. How do you think it got there? Post your answers on the blog!

CLE students, try using these images of ships in the past as a story starter. Write me a short story about a trip on an old sailing vessel and incorporate some of what you have learned about their technology in your story. Can you tell me the story of how that wood ended up on the bottom of the ocean? Please don’t post these to the blog. They will be too long. Print them and show them to me when I get back on land next week.

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IMG_6782-766424And now some answers to your questions:

RM – Good question: A sea spider is a sea-creature related to the horseshoe crab. It just looks a lot like the spiders we see on land.

Have we seen any sharks? We have seen a lot of dog-fish, which are a type of shark, but are not very ferocious. Our captain saw a great white off the bridge. Unfortunately, I was working below decks at that moment and did not get out to see it in time.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 12, 2008

Science Log

Here is a sample of what has come up in the nets overnight.

Sea stars and baby invertebrates
Sea stars and baby invertebrates

Here are several different types of sea-stars. I am always amazed by the wide variety of these creatures that exist in the ocean.

a brachiopod
a brachiopod

This little fellow might not look like much, but it has an interesting history. This creature is called a brachiopod. It belongs to one of the oldest family of creatures on earth. There have been brachiopods in the sea for at least 550 million years. That is long before there were even plants on land, let alone animals and dinosaurs. It is a simple shelled animal that has a single stalk that helps is stay attached to the rocks around it. Click here to learn more about this amazing creature.

a brachiopod
a sea cucumber

Here is a sea cucumber. They live at the bottom of the sea and can be found all over the world. They are used to make medicine in some countries in Asia.

Sargassum up close
Sargassum up close

Remember that large raft of sargassum weed we saw yesterday? Some came up in the nets today. Here is what it looks like close up. She the little pockets that hold air? They help the sargassum stay afloat.

This is a sea spider.
This is a sea spider.

And of course, there is always garbage. We keep getting bits and pieces each time the nets come up. Here is a sampling. We found one entire Butterfinger candy bar with the chocolate still inside (no, we did not eat it), as well as some rope. How do you think it got here?

Let take a closer look at a sensor called a CTD. That stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. Remember the drifter buoy that we released a few days ago? It measures temperature on the top of the water and it can drift all over the ocean taking readings. A CTD takes its measurements as it descends through the water column and can go all the way to the bottom.

Trash pulled up with the rest of it
Trash pulled up with the rest of it

Have you ever seen barnicles move? They do. We found these huge barnicles in our net and we put them in water to encourage them to come out. Check out this video!

A lot of people have asked me about sea-sickness. Sea Sickness happens when your brain and body, which are constantly working to keep you balanced, get confused by the rocking of the ship. It is a terrible feeling, and I’m glad I have not been sea-sick at all on this trip. Some people do better than others on boats. I do not tend to get sea-sick unless the waves are very high, and I am used to the rocking of the ship now. The other night I was working on deck and I caught sight of the moon moving quickly across the sky. I wondered why it was moving so fast until I realized it was my ship that was moving in the sea and me with it. The moon only seemed to move. I guess that means I’m used to the rocking back and forth and hardly notice it now.

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More marine debris
More marine debris

MLL, SPL and MCL, Snuggy and Zee are having a great time and none of us are sea-sick. I put more information about it in the upper part of the blog entry. Thanks for writing.

SQ, CS, KM and VM: It is nice fall weather. Not too hot, not too cold. I love it. I have not felt uncomfortable even when I am working out on the wet deck of the ship.

GG: It is not hard to sleep at all most nights. There was only one night where the waves were high and I bounced around too much to sleep well. The rest of the nights were fine. The ship rocks me to bed at night. I do miss WOS. See you soon.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2009

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 11, 2008

Science Log

Greetings from Canada, my son Nicky’s favorite place! We are now in Canadian waters. We have crossed the international boarder. More amazing things keep coming up in our nets. Today we had some interesting sea-stars. Take a look. The larger ones are called Sun-Stars. Do they look like the sun to you? Sea stars are scavengers. They will move around the bottom looking for whatever food is laying around. The legs of the sea star have small tentacles that push food towards the mouth in the center.

Can you find the mouth?
Can you find the mouth?

Did you know that squid can change color? Often male squid change color to attract a mate or to scare off other males who are competing with them. If there are two males near one female, they able to turn one color on the side facing the female, and then turn another color on the other side facing the male.

Squid
Squid

We had more dolphins circling the ship last night. We think our lights may be attracting certain fish or squid, then the dolphins come to eat that. They are not with us during the day at all. One of the benefits, I guess, of being on the night watch. I cannot shoot still photos due to the low light, but have wonderful video. The sounds that you hear on the video were recorded with the ship’s hydrophone. This is a special microphone that can record sounds underwater. The sounds were recorded as the dolphins swam around the ship. You can hear the sound of them swimming by as well as the sound of their sonar as they locate fish to eat. Click here to watch and listen. Thanks to survey technician Pete Gamache for recording this for us. Click here to see the video. Don’t miss it!

Floating Sargassum mat
Floating Sargassum mat
Close up Sargassum
Close up Sargassum

We drove past some seaweed called sargasum weed. It normally grows in an area towards the middle of the Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. We are well west of the Sargasso, but this seems to have drifted our way. Sargasum Weed grows on the surface of the water. These huge mats of seaweed support an entire ecosystem of sea creatures. Many come to seek shelter in the weeds. Many more come to feed on smaller creatures hiding there.

Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the fantail of the ship.
Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the fantail of the ship.

The fantail is an area by the stern of the vessel where the nets are deployed. The photos show the area where the work gets done. Our ship works all night long, of course, and trawls are done at night as well as during the day. Take a look at this video which explains how trawls are done.

NOAA Ship Albatross
NOAA Ship Albatross

Our ship is shadowing another NOAA ship, the Albatross. Why? The Albatross is an old ship and will be replaced by the Bigelow in the years to come. At this point, the ships are trawling in exactly the same place to see if they get similar results in their surveys. Making sure the vessels measure the same thing the same way is called calibration. Right now we are doing calibration with the Albatross.

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IMG_6425-724011Now some answers to your questions:

RM – No we did not see Nantucket yet. We were too far out to sea. We may see it on the way back. Thanks for writing.

T – I love Block Island too. Thanks for the warning about rough seas. I am glad you and your mom are both enjoying the blog as much as I enjoy writing it for you. I’m used to the 12 AM shift now. I that I finally got 8 hours of sleep.

AR – There were TONS of skates in the water.

Hello to Mrs Eubank’s Class. Its great to hear from you. Great questions. Now for answers:

— Amanda, I think fish can get smaller pieces of plastic confused with tiny plankton, but our buoy is too large for that. I don’t think it will hurt fish. I think they will stay away from it.

–Tiffany, this is a tough question and a very good question. I guess over time, our buoy will stop working and will become floating trash. The truth is all science effects the environment you study. The trick is to do more good with your work than harm. Our buoy will help us understand our environment better so that all of us will do less harm in the future. Our ship also burns fuel as we study the ocean. That pollutes a little, but hopefully through our work, we do more good than harm to what we study.

Weston, It felt like the drifter weighs about 35 pounds or so.

Bryce, we use a large net to scoop along the bottom. The opening is about 4 meters wide.

Luke, we have not, nor do I expect to find new species. Our purpose is to learn more about the species that we already know about.

Bryce, we were about 140 miles from the nearest land the last time I looked.

RJ, some scientists made our drifter.

Weston, there are about 1000 drifters right now in the open sea.

I enjoyed your questions. Thanks for writing.

Mr. Moretti’s class, I’m not sure what killed the whale, but remember, all things the live also die. We cannot assume that something human beings did killed that whale. With all the pollution we create, we cannot assume, however, that we did not hurt it. We should stop polluting just to be sure we do not hurt other living things.

Many of you have are working hard to figure out our math question from the other day. Here is how it works. If we are going 8 knots for 24 hours, we multiply 8 times 24 and get 192 knots in a day. If we want to convert that to miles, we multiply again by 1.15 because each knot is 1.15 miles. We get 220.8 Congratulations to all who got this correct. It was a tough question.

Several of you have asked how long I would be on the ship. I will be here until the end of next week. I leave the ship on Friday October 17th.

LP – I enjoy the show Deadliest Catch very much. I think it is cool that scientists sometimes do that same kind of exciting work.

SD, there is no way for me to videotape under that water, but tomorrow I will show you how our sonars (we call them echosounders) work. That is one way to see under the water.

DT from SOMS dont’ worry, there is no light pollution out here. I am on the back deck of a working ship, so right where I am there are lights. I need them to do my job. I just have to go to the upper decks to get away from it or ask the bridge to shut them down for a bit.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 10, 2008

IMG_6354-743446Science Log

Did you figure out the answer to yesterday’s question? Those creatures were the real cast of Sponge Bob Square Pants TV Show. We saw a sponge, like Sponge Bob, and sea stars like Patrick, plankton, like Sheldon Plankton, some squid like Squidward, a crab like Mr. Krabs next to a sand dollar (because Mr. Krabs loves money), a lobster like Larry the Lobster and a snail like Gary. All the creatures in the program actually exist in the sea, except for squirrels, and we have seen them all on this adventure. Amazing creatures keep coming up in our nets day after day. Let’s take a look at a creature called a skate. The skate makes those funny black rectangles that you find on beaches. Take a look at where those rectangles come from and what is inside of them. Click here for a video!

Skates also have interesting faces. They live along the bottom of the sea. Their eyes are on top of their head to spot predators and their mouthes are below to eat what is on the bottom. They have two nostril -like openings above their mouth called spiracles. They look just like eyes but actually help the skate breathe. Here are a few interesting skate faces.

IMG_6247-720301

This sea robin uses three separate parts of its pectoral fin, called fin-rays to move, almost like its walking along the bottom of the sea as it looks for food. This helps is move very quietly, making it able to sneak up on prey unobserved.

Sea Robin
Sea Robin

These two baby dog-fish show different stages of development. This one is still connected to an egg sack. The other has broken loose from it, but you can still see where it was attached just below the mouth. Usually in this species, just like most fish in the shark family has eggs that develop inside the mother’s body. She gives birth to the pups when they have hatched from their eggs and are ready for the open sea.

Dogfish egg sack
Dogfish egg sack

IMG_6374-789593Many people have asked me about garbage. Here is some of what we have found so far. We caught part of someone else’s fishing net. Here is a Styrofoam cup and here is a plastic bag, which we caught 140 miles from the nearest land. How do you think it got here?

Finally, we were visited by some dolphins last night. They were eating smaller fish and as they came in for their attack, you can see the smaller fish jumping straight out of the water into the air to try to avoid being caught. Click here for a video.

IMG_6125-731150

IMG_6383-764446Snuggy and Zee decided to visit the kitchen today. Here are Zee and Snuggy with our chief Steward Dennis M. Carey and our 2nd cook, Alexander Williams. The food here is fantastic. See how large the kitchen is? We have a lot of people to feed on this ship, and the cooks here work hard. You have seen a few of the many different jobs that people can do on a ship like this. You have seen the scientists at work in the labs, you have seen the engineers who make the engine go. You have been to the bridge where the NOAA Corp officers run the ship. You have been to the kitchen where the cooks keep us so well fed. Tomorrow, you will see how the deck crew trawl our sample nets through the water. Keep checking the blog this weekend. There will be lots to see.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, some answers to your questions and comments:

Hi to KD and to Derek Jeter. We are staying safe. Thanks for writing.

Hello to St. Mark School in Florida. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. I really enjoyed your thoughts about what these fish have in common. Great work. Here are some answers:

If a ship hit a drifter, the drifter would probably be broken. But the ocean is a big place, and that does not happen very often.

Can your school adopt a drifter? Of course! Take a look here: http://www.adoptadrifter.noaa.gov/. In the mean time, you are welcome to follow the adventures of our buoy. Keep checking this website!

I have Snuggy because some of my kindergarten classes asked me to take a bear with me to sea. So I did!

How heavy are the drifters? It weight 30 pounds or so, I would guess. Enough to make me work to pick it up.

I knew the whale was dead because part of it was decomposing. We could see it and we could smell it. Yuck.

Did any fish try to bite me? Yes. One scallop closed its shell on my finger. I had to be quick to get my hand out of the way in time. Other than that, no.

At 8 knots per hour, the ship could travel 192 knots, or about 220 miles in a day.

Congratulations to all who calculated correctly. The truth is that we have to stop for sample trawls every hour or two, so we seldom make our top cruising speed when we do work like this. So, we usually travel less than we could.

Oh, and to all those who asked, so far I have not gotten sick. Yet.

Thanks all for writing. Keep checking the blog!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 9, 2008

DSCN3867-789283Science Log

Hello everyone. I hope you are all enjoying your day off today. Since you have time off from school, I bet many of you are spending time observing these sea creatures…

Can you guess what they all have in common? Post your answers on the blog.

Need a hint? That crab is standing right by a sand dollar. Money. Hmmm.

This angler fish is an interesting character. It sits on the bottom of the water and blends in with its surroundings. It has a small hair that sticks out of its face that is use to lure prey closer to its mouth (just like its cousin from deeper waters, the angler fish). When the prey get close by it strikes. With all of those rows of sharp teeth it makes short work of smaller fish. Can you imagine a fish with a built in fishing rod. Very interesting. We came across a dead whale floating in the open sea. What an amazing sight (and smell). Yuk. Look how big it is next to the ship. The barnacles on its face were the size of baseballs.

A lot of you have asked what my stateroom looks like. Here are Snuggy and Zee in my “rack.” That’s what we call a bed. Do I have a roommate? Yes. Sean is very nice. I’ve only met him once or twice because he sleeps when I work and I sleep when he works, so we don’t run into each other much. That’s often how things work on a ship like this. The second picture is the door to the corridor. The locker to the right is where I keep my gear. The door on the left leads to the “head,” which is what we call the bathroom on a ship.

Many of you asked what the engine room is like. Joe Deltorto, our Chief Engineer, was kind enough to give me a tour. The Bigelow has an interesting engine room. Huge diesel generators make electricity. Lots of it. Enough to power all of our computers, sensors, lights, and even the ship itself. The propeller is turned by large electric motors. This makes the Bigelow one of the most quiet research ships anywhere. Why is that important? Sound is often used to see what is below the surface of the water. Sonars push sound through the water and listen when it echos back. That’s often how boats see what is under them. The Bigelow has a more sophisticated version of this called an echosounder. It can see much more, but still uses sound to see. So the engines have to be super quiet.

Today we will deploy our Drifter Buoy. This is an instrument that we are adopting. It will float in the open sea for the next 14 months or so and tell us where is has gone and what the temperature of the water around it is. Drifters are an important way that scientists measure. Keep watching here. I will update the blog when I deploy the drifter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are some answers to your wonderful questions and comments.

Have I gotten sea-sick? No. So far, the water has been very calm. I feel very luck. The ship has hardly moved at all.

Does it smell on board because of all the fish? Surprisingly, no. even the fish labs have lots of fresh ocean air coming through. There is no bad smell. When we came across a rotten whale floating in the ocean, then there was a smell! Oy!

The whales we have seen so far were all humpback. Even the dead one.

Have I seen fish that were new to me. Oh yes. Most of what we have seen has been new to me! That’s what makes these trips so much fun! I love learning new things.

What do I want to see that I have not seen yet? Dolphins.

In answer to so many of your questions, no, I have not fallen in yet. Either has anyone else. The Bigelow is a very safe ship. Everyone is well trained and very concerned for the saftey of themselves and all the others on board. I feel very safe here.

Hello to Ms. Farry and classes in TZE. I’m glad you are looking at the blog.

Hi Turtle. Nice to hear from you. Yes, I think we can work that out. We are on the shelf, so our deepest CTD deployment will be only be about 300 meters. Will that do?

FD and JEGB, thanks for your questions. No, so far we have not seen any 6 pack rings on any creatures. I did see some garbage float by many dozens of miles from shore. It was right where the whales were swimming. Sad.

IJ, cool idea, though I wonder, though if the water would carry toxins from the smoke into the streams rivers and oceans? Keep thinking maybe you will discover a way to solve this problem someday.

Mi Mrs. Bolte’s class. I’ll get you engine room photos very soon, and there is a photo of my stateroom for you today. I’m glad you like the blog.

MS, the people here are friendly, very professional and so helpful with everything I have needed for all my projects.

MH, yes I do miss my family.

MJ, we see lots of ships out here. Yes. It has been fun to see.

Several of you asked about cell phones. They do not work out here. We are way too far from land. All the crew were on deck as we left port making their last calls to their families. So was I.

Hello to Mrs. Ochman’s class, Mrs. De Vissers’s class, Mrs. Sheehy’s and TN’s class. I hope the pictures in the last few days answered lots of your questions.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s class, here are some answers to your questions: No, the clothes just keep you dry (and comfortable) when you are working. You get used to them. I am adjusting well to the time change. It is a little like going to New Zealand like Mrs. Christie-Blick did recently. I wake up at about 8:00 PM, go to work at midnight and then go to sleep in the early afternoon. Our time, that is. If I were in New Zealand, I would be on a normal schedule. I’ll post pictures for your soon for my stateroom. It is very relaxing here. There is not a whole lot to worry about. There is a lot of work, but it is not hard.

The zig in our course, by the way is probably where we stopped for a trawl. We sometimes circle around when we do that.

Hello Mrs. Benson. Thanks for checking out the blog. No artists here at the moment. I enjoy amature photography and what subjects there are out here!

Hello Guy D. Thanks for following the blog. I appreciate your support.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 8, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2009

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 8, 2008

Science Log

Today we started working. My shift is 12 midnight to 12 noon, so I slept for a few hours in the afternoon and then worked overnight and into the morning. It is hard to get used to staying up all night. It feels a little like I took an unexpected trip to Europe. Our first haul took the longest to sort out because many of us were learning how things were supposed to work, but after a full day, it started to feel routine. Here is a sampling of some of the amazing creatures that came up in our nets:

Big fish!
It’s a shark!
This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!
This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!
This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.
This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.
Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.
Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.
This is a skate.
This is a skate.
These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.
These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.
This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!
This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!
The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I'm smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!
The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I’m smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!

And finally, we saw whales!

~~~

NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey
NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey

On a personal note, this is a very comfortable ship. Zee and Snuggy will continue to show us around each day. Several of us watched the presidential debate on live satellite TV in the lounge tonight. Here are Snuggy and Zee having a quick meal.

Cottage Lane students, we are traveling about 8 knots per hour right now. Can you calculate how for we can travel in a day? Remember, the ship works all day and all night. How far can it go at that speed? Post your answers on the blog, then watch the video. Would you like to do this kind of work? Let me know.

I have enjoyed reading your comments very much. We are going to have a little delay in my responding to comments today as I get used to working the midnight shift. You are all correct when you say that the Bigelow has a LOT more technology than the Eagle. Consider this: I went on deck at about 4 in the morning to do some work and found that I could not see the stars because the electric lights on the ship were so bright! I guess we have to have a GPS when you reach that point! Celestial navigation just will not work on a ship with lights so bright!

Mascots in the galley
Mascots in the galley

A lot of you were focusing on what sailors then and now need to survive: Food and water, for example. Did you know old sailing ships had to bring their entire supply of fresh water with them in barrels. Today, our ship can take the salt out of seawater to make it safe to drink. Technology has changed the way we live on ships!

To my fellow TAS from the Delaware: Thanks for writing. We are doing bottom trawls and are looking to survey the entire benthic community here. Thanks for the sea-sickness tips. I may need all the help I can get if the weather decides to change.

Lynn: thanks for reading the blog. Zee is fine, and so far so am I. With luck, the weather will hold! If not, Zee may do better than I do. We could see Cape Cod earlier today. Beautiful!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.
This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 7, 2008

Science Log

Our first day at sea is a day of mainly travel and drills. We are moving east around the island of Martha’s Vinyard towards our first tow of the day.

Did you know that ships like the Bigelow have all kinds of safety procedures? We had two drills today. In one the crew all went to the back of the ship and put on our survivial gear. This suit will help us survive and be spotted by rescurers in the event we have to abandon ship. It is called an abandon ship drill.

On the gangplank!
On the gangplank!

During a fire drill, we go to our assigned safe spot for attendance – we call it muster. And the officers and crew practice putting out a fire. A fire on a ship can be dangerous. There are no fireman to call, so crew have to learn to put out fires on their own. That takes practice.

Snuggy and Zee also had their own tour of the ship. Each day they will visit a few places and show you pictures so you can see what different parts of the ship look like. They came in on the gangplank this morning. Just like all the sailors do.  Tomorrow, WOS students, please tell me what other parts of the ship we should visit. CLE students, you had lots of good ideas about how Columbus’ ship and mine are different. Technology is at the top of the list. Imagine crossing the ocean with just a compass, a steering wheel and a quadrent. What an adventure. We live in luxury even on our working ship. My quarters even have carpet! Keep those ideas coming. Good night to them both. It’s four in the afternoon and time for bed. I get up at 11 and start work at 12 midnight.

Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.

————————

Safety gear
Safety gear

Hello to all who wrote so far. Mrs. Christie Blick’s class, Mr. Connaughton’s class and others want to know when we start our survey work: We will begin our experiments late today after I have gone to bed, so I will tell you what we catch tomorrow. And I will send you LOTS of photographs! What do we want to catch? Well, different scientists need different things for their work. One of our scientists is studying lobsters. I hope we catch more than he needs so I can have a few for myself!

CP and others, it is not likely that we will see anything new in the water that has never been discovered. Sceintists study this area in detail every day to look for changes to the number of fish or patterns in where they live. we have a good idea of what is doen there.

AR, I will try to answer all your questions in the days to come. I have a bed called a rack here on the ship. I have a small quarters and one very nice roommate. I’ll show you around soon.

The weather here is perfect. The water is not cold or hot. It is just right. By the way, I will not be going to the bottom. We will lower nets to the bottom and see what we bring up.

EA, this ship is 210 feet long.

My brother David asks if I bring music along. Yes. I have my whole collection on my computer. Including all your discs!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 6, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 6, 2008

Now here is a view of the bridge of NOAA Ship HENRY B. BIGELOW.
Now here is a view of the bridge of NOAA Ship HENRY B. BIGELOW.

Science Log

I made it to Newport and am writing from the ship. It was an interesting trip, can you find Newport, RI, on the map?

Remember its’ Columbus Day next Monday and we are going to spend some time on this cruise comparing this ship to the one Columbus was on. I stopped off to see an old Square Rigger Sailing Ship run by the Coast Guard. It is called the Eagle and it is based in New London, Connecticut. Here is what the bridge of the Eagle looks like.

How do the crew of the Eagle know where they are? They use the sun and the stars. In fact, it is the only Coast Guard Base where Celestial Navigation is still taught. Here a friendly Coast Guard Officer, Lieutenant Lally, shows us how to use a sextant. See the tables below? He needs those to convert his sextant sighting to a latitude.

Masts of the ship
Masts of the ship

Thanks to Lieutenant Lally and to the entire crew of the Eagle for their hospitality. Fourth graders tomorrow should work in pairs and post 4 ways the Eagle and the Bigelow are the same and 4 ways they are different to the blog. Then you can work on the navigation part of this website. Don’t miss the simulation of the tool you just saw demonstrated.

Newport is also famous for mansions an beautiful sea coast. Here are a few photos of the mansions. Thank you to Harle Tinney and her wonderful staff at Belcourt Castle for letting me take photos of the inside for you. She told me something else about the Castle. The weather vane at the top of the castle was marked on the maps sea captains used back in the old-days. From that weather vane, they could calculate their position and avoid crashing on the rocks nearby.

See you tomorrow.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Navigation instrument
Navigation instrument

Response to your questions and comments: Thanks to all for your good wishes. MAB – I will tell you all about what we catch. OG, we are not permitted on deck while work is going on unless we have a life jacket. Everyone here cares about safety. CB, the ship holds about 36 people. I’m not sure how many are sailing on this cruise. About half the crew are scientists. Several of you asked how long I would be gone for. I’ll be gone for about two weeks. We come back on the 17th of October. Many of you suggested I bring warm clothes. Yes I did. I brought just one suitcase (there is not a lot of room on a ship for extra stuff), but it is full of clothes. I brought lots of layers as well.

Hello to Miss. William’s Class: I am very excited to be going to sea again. I love it. I’ll be back in two weeks, but while I’m away, I’ll tell you all about what we catch and what we do while I am out.

Oh, and to everyone who asked, If I get sick, I’ll tell you that too! I promise! Thanks for writing.

J from TZE, I’ll show you about the cups in a few days. We are going to do an experiment with them. Keep watching!!

MH you asked a lot of great questions. Thanks for writing. I’ll try to answer all of them over the next few days. As for where I’ve been. Well, I spent the last two voyages in Alaska, so this will be very different. And much warmer.

Oh, and I did bring a few things to read. Most of them are on my computer to save space. There are a few books.

Keep watching the blog and keep writing! I’ll respond to your comments as best I can either personally or in the text of the blog now and in the days ahead. Remember, students should just use their initials when commenting.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 5, 2008

The mascots
The mascots

Science Log

I am packed and ready. Here is a photo of Zee, our High School Mascot and Snuggy on their way to Newport to meet the ship. Monday, I will leave early in the morning and will post a blog entry from Newport, Rhode Island before we leave on Tuesday.

Next to Zee are the styrofoam cups our 4th graders and 1st graders made for an experiment. Some of our 4th graders also decorated my hardhat. It looks great! Thanks for helping keep me safe and in style while I work on deck, and thanks for all your comments and suggestions. You really helped me remember what to bring!

Styrofoam cups ready for the depths
Styrofoam cups ready for the depths

Marilyn Frydrych, September 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 25, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

We received a call from the Coast Guard yesterday telling us to seek shelter because of the impending interaction of Hurricane Kyle with a strong cold front approaching us. We cut our cruise a day short and headed for Woods Hole. As we headed back in I had time to reflect on my experiences over the last couple weeks. I particularly appreciated all the positive energy of the scientific crew. They were always very helpful and thoughtful as well as efficient. I learned a lot from them.  Each morning I found myself looking forward to what might unfold as we worked together.  I totally enjoyed my four or five hours of free time each day. Often I would spend this time on the bow or the fantail taking in the rhythm of the sea.  It was a very soothing experience much like watching a camp fire. The sunsets, too, brought a sense of awe and peace.

Each of the crew was a master of multiple tasks.  Jon Rockwell was not only an expert cook, but a medic as were three others aboard.  As part of their initial training with the NOAA Corps the four officers had entered a room fully in flames and totally filled with smoke.  If they had to, they could navigate by the stars. Two of the officers were NOAA trained SCUBA divers.  The engineers could fix anything whether it had to do with distilling water, leaking hydraulic pipes, stuck drawers, broken toilets, cracked welds, or the various diesel engines.  They were experts in the “green” rules governing disposal of waste.  The ET specialist could fix both hardware and software.  The scientists knew their software programs backwards and forwards.  All very impressive.

Each day brought a new, wondrous sunset.
Each day brought a new, wondrous sunset.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 24, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with winds out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Marie Martin, the bird watcher, came rushing down from her perch on the flying bridge in the early afternoon announcing that she had just spotted a humpback whale close by.  We all rushed here and there to get a view. I went up to the bow and looked for about 10 minutes.  As I came back through the bridge LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, the OOD (Officer of the Deck), and Marie were talking about a right whale entangled in a net.  Mark called the captain seeking his advice.  Whenever a situation like this is observed the captain is expected to report it.  The captain told Mark to report it and let the trained people steam out to try to find it.  I interjected that I never did spot the pilot whale. Everyone said, “What pilot whale?”  Mark said he saw a right whale. Marie piped up that she had said it was a humpback whale.  Then I remembered that indeed she had said humpback whale.  At that point the whole thing was moot because the humpbacks are not endangered. Then we asked Mike, the chief scientist, what would happen if a right whale got caught in his net. He said he didn’t want to think about it.  When a sturgeon got caught he said he had two weeks of doing nothing but filling out forms.  If a right whale got caught he would probably have 2 months of paperwork.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.42 degrees N, 67.39 degrees W
Cloudy with wind out of the N at 32 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  11.6 degrees Celsius
Waves: 6 feet
Visibility:  10 miles

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday we were fairly busy doing CTD casts and trawls. Today we woke to find the night crew just starting to record the lengths and weights of their large catch. We grabbed some cereal and took over from them at 5:45 a.m. They had collected and sorted all the fish. Jacquie and I took about two hours measuring, weighing, and examining the innards of the half basket of herring they left us. Our chief scientist, Dr. Mike Jech, summarized his findings so far in a short report to everyone including those back at Woods Hole: “Trawl catches in the deeper water near Georges Bank have been nearly 100% herring with some silver hake.  Trawl catches in shallow water (<75 m) have occasionally caught herring, but mostly small silver hake, redfish, butterfish, and red hake.

A night haul of herring.  Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.
A night haul of herring. Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.

Small being less than 5-6 cm in length.  We caught one haddock this entire trip.  Trawl catches north of Georges Bank have been a mix of redfish and silver hake, with a few herring mixed in.” This afternoon the Officer of the Deck, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, gave me a run down of many of the instruments on the bridge.  I spotted a white blob on the northeastern horizon and pointed it out. He showed me where it was on the SIMRAD FS900, a specialized radar.  The SIMRAD FS900is often able to identify a ship and its name.  This time it couldn’t.  Looking through binoculars we could see it was a large container vessel.  Then we looked at a different radar and saw both the ship’s absolute trajectory and its trajectory relative to the Delaware 2.  It was on a path parallel to the Delaware2 so Mark didn’t worry about it intersecting our path.  We also noticed another ship off to the west and north of us on the radar, but we couldn’t yet see it on the horizon. It too was projected on a path parallel to us.

Then Mark pointed out an area on the SIMRAD FS900 outlined in red. It’s an area where ships can voluntarily slow to 10 knots in an effort to avoid collisions with whales. It seems that sleeping right whales don’t respond to approaching noises made by ships.  There are only about 350 to 500 of them left and they are often killed by passing ships. The Delaware 2 was steaming at about 7 knots because in the 6 ft waves it couldn’t go any faster. However the container ship was steaming at 15.5 knots.  Few ships slow down in the red zone.

Mark showed me how to fill out the weather report for that hour.   I typed in all my info into a program on a monitor which assembled all my weather data into the format the weather service uses. I first recorded our position from an instrument displaying the latitude and longitude right there above the plotting table.  I read the pressure, the wet bulb temperature and the dry bulb temperature from an instrument which had a readout in a room off to the starboard of the bridge.  The ship has two anemometers so I averaged these to get the wind speed and direction.  We looked at the waves and tried to imagine standing in the trough of one and looking up.  I figured the wave would be over my head and so estimated about 6 feet.  We also looked at the white foam from a breaking wave and counted the seconds from when it appeared until it rode the next wave. The period of the wave we watched was four seconds.  Next we looked out the window to search out any clouds. It was clear in front of us but quite cloudy all behind us.  I estimated the height of the clouds. I typed all this information into the appropriate boxes on the monitor.  It was all so much easier than my college days when we had to gather the information manually then switch it by hand into the code appropriate for the weather service.  The OOD sent this information to NOAA Weather Service on the hour, every hour operations permitting.

Personal Log 

Though my son was instrumental in persuading me to apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position I haven’t seen much of him thus far.  He’s standing the 1 to 4 shift both afternoon and night.  When I’m free he seems to be sleeping.  We don’t even eat meals together.  That’s why I made a special trip to the bridge today to meet up with him during his watch.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.52 degrees N, 68.06 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Today was more of the same–more CTD’s and trawls.  Just after lunch we had our weekly fire drill. This time the fire was in the galley and Jon Rockwell, the chief cook, was supposedly overcome with fake CO2 smoke.  After everyone except Jon was accounted for the search for him began in earnest.  The Hollywood style smoke machine produced smoke so thick the crew had difficulty finding Jon “passed out” on the floor of the galley.  Part of the drill was lifting Jon on a stretcher up the stairs and out onto the fantail.  Our station was redirected to the bridge this time where we were allowed to listen as LT(jg) Mark Frydrych conducted the exercise.  I had noticed emergency firemen gear here and there in the halls.  Always there was a radio charging next to the gear. That’s how they communicated.  All in all I was very impressed with the expertise and calmness of everyone even when plan A didn’t work and plan B had to be tried.  Safety always came first. For a good 45 minutes following the drill the crew and officers talked over possible improvements.  There was no messing around.  Everyone was in earnest and aware of the seriousness of the drill and the debriefing.  Yet this group had been practicing fire drills weekly every time they were at sea.

Personal Log 

I already knew three people aboard when I arrived.  My son, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, was the Operations Officer. He’s the one who suggested I apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position.  On a previous visit to Woods Hole I had met Erin Earley, the engineer wiper.  We had hit it off then and continued to get to know each other better on this cruise.  Then there was my hiking pal from Colorado, Jacquie. She and I both work at Pikes Peak Community College in the math department.  She’d taken the semester off and was looking for an adventure.  After applying for the Teacher-at-Sea position I learned that the Herring Legs needed volunteers.  Jacquie signed up for the first two legs. This cruise was her second leg.  I experienced a tremendously easy adjustment stage because of these friendships.

 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.00 degrees, 68.06 degrees W
Partly cloudy, wind out of the SE at 6 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 18.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  15.7 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  17.7 degrees Celsius

Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.
Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.

Science and Technology Log 

We returned to a spot that Mike had marked on our computers as a place where he would have liked to have sampled the fish when the seas were high and we were unable to fish.  We sent down a CTD at dawn and then deployed our net.  I’m learning more about the importance of the man at the helm.  If he speeds the boat then the net will rise.  Conversely, if he slows the net falls.  The desire of the scientist is to get a representative sample of the fish in the area, but not to take more than what is needed since we return very few alive to the ocean. The NOAA Corps officer at the helm knows this as well and has his own sonar so that he knows at what level the fish are located.  He adjusts the speed of the boat as he sees fit to catch an appropriate number of fish while checking with the chief scientist or watch chief to ensure the net is where they want it. I also learned that red fish are often associated with American herring.  Red fish are a sweet delicious fish, which were over fished during World War II.  They’ve been on the US’s banned fishing list since that time.

frydrych_log6aWe brought up in today’s catch about 200 small fry red fish.  We also collected about 20 good-sized ones running to about 12”.  The large ones take up to 60 years to grow to the size where they are worth harvesting to eat.  We only brought up 5 herring.  This time there was one 8” squid. We deployed the Tow Body this afternoon around 3:30 p.m.  It’s an undersea camera.  Unfortunately the wires connecting the Tow Body to the computers had gotten broken as it sat on the fantail. Possibly the wires got jostled during clean up.  (We use a fire hose to clean the fantail after each trawl.) Possibly people stepping on and over the wires as they walked about on the fantail broke the wire.  This wasn’t learned until moments before we were to deploy the instrument.  The ET specialist, Dave Miles, figured out where the wire was broken fairly quickly and reconnected it. That gave us connectivity, but still there was a problem of the Tow Body not responding to commands from the computer.  The chief scientist, Mike, tackled that part of the problem.  Somehow he fixed the software. We got the go ahead signal about three hours later. 

Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body
Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body

This was the only deployment in which the scientific crew was allowed on the fantail as part of the deployment.  Like the fishermen we had to wear a life jacket and hardhat.  Four of us held onto lines that kept the Tow Body from twisting as it entered the water.  Unfortunately one of the lines got loose. Displaying great skill fisherman Jim Pontz used a grappling hook to retrieve it.   By now we had drifted so far off course we had to circle back into position.  When we finally got the instrument in the water our fish had left the area.  We could tell that by the echograms.  The plans were to leave the Tow Body’s lights off until the camera was surrounded by fish.

Otherwise the fish swim away from the lights.  Only later when we again came into a school of fish did we learn that the lights weren’t responding.  The endeavor was aborted.  From a scientific standpoint we did learn something.  The Tow Body needed more work.  We also learned that we should start disconnecting the wires from the Tow Body when it’s stored on the fantail.

Personal Log 

I watched the Broncos play this afternoon.  No one else was interested.  Four or five of the crew watched different football games throughout the day.  They seemed to have time for their favorite team, but no one seemed to spend hours and hours watching game after game.  The most popular form of relaxation was watching movies.  There must be over a hundred DVD’s to choose from. The screen is a large flat panel screen.

Fisherman Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line attached to the Tow Body.
Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.53 degrees N, 67.51 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.
A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.

Science and Technology Log 

We did a CTD with an attached water bottle and then deployed a net. We backtracked today and redid the sites we found yesterday which had good herring potential. About 10:30 in the morning we collected about 1/3 of a clothesbasket of fish. Most of that were herring and mackerel, with the usual small butterfish, goosefish or lumpfish, red hake fish, small jellyfish, and Ilex squid. The catch included an unknown two inch fish which Mike, the chief scientist, conjectured had gotten caught in a warm eddy off the Gulf Stream and ended in the wrong part of the ocean much like the jet stream blows birds off course. Part of sorting the fish involved gutting one to three each of the different lengths of herring to determine their sex, age, and what they had been eating. With practice and much patience on Robert and Jacquie’s part I learned to recognize the stomach and sex organs of the fish.  None of the herring today had anything in their stomachs, while those of two days ago had lots, mostly krill.  With two of us working it took about 45 minutes to measure the length and weight of each herring.  They varied When we finally collected the net we had 3 basketsful of redfish, half a basket of silver hake, 4 herring, one large goosefish about a foot long, and a rare Atlantic Shad about 2 feet long.

To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  It looks like a cigarette.  We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop. Then we stretched the body straight out.  When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length.  The fish are silver hake.
To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer. We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop and stretched the body straight out. When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length. The fish are silver hake.

We froze samples which we’d opened up for Mike and then one ungutted sample from each of the nine categories for the University of  Maine. We did another CTD about 11:30 and deployed the net again. All did not go well this time. The sonar showed that the net was twisted and the opening blocked. The fishermen were called upon to bring it in and straighten it.  The first thing they did was to take the two 400 pound chain weights off. Then they sent the net back out hoping it would straighten itself.  Alas, they had to bring it in and send it out a couple more times as they manually untangled all the lines. It was very strenuous work and took them about 45 minutes.  As a result we steamed about 3 miles past the point where we intended to fish.

We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex.  We did that only for herring.  The scale is under the gray container on the right.  We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight.
We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex. We did that only for herring. The scale is under the gray container on the right. We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight
 

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3624.8888 N Longitude: 12243.8013 W
Wind Direction: 261 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 8.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 16.385

Figure indicating migration of different genetic stocks of Pacific leatherback turtles.
Figure indicating migration of different genetic stocks of Pacific leatherback turtles.

Science and Technology Log 

Turtle Genetics 
Peter Dutton is the turtle specialist on board, having studied sea turtles for 30 years.  His research has taken him all over the tropical Pacific to collect samples, study behaviors and learn more about Dermochelys coriacea, the leatherback turtle. Mitochondrial DNA (is clonal=only one copy) is only inherited maternally (from the mother), so represents mother’s genetic information (DNA), while nuclear DNA has two copies, one inherited from the mother and the other from the father .By looking at the genetic fingerprint encoded in nuclear DNA it is possible to compare hatchling “DNA fingerprints”, with their mother’s and figure out what the father’s genetic contribution was. This paternity (father’s identifying DNA) analysis has produced some intriguing results.

Peter Dutton looking for turtles with the ‘big eyes’.
Peter Dutton looking for turtles with the ‘big eyes’.

An analysis of chick embryos or hatchling DNA indicates all eggs were fertilized throughout the season from the same dad. It is thought that the female must store sperm in her reproductive system. Successively, throughout the nesting season, a female will lay several clutches, one clutch at a time.  Females come in to the beach for a brief period (leatherbacks – approx 1.5 hrs) every 9-10 days to lay eggs for the 3 or 4 month nesting season (they lay up to 12). Sometimes it is the same beach; sometimes it is a beach nearby. Research done on other sea turtles is showing some species have actually produced offspring with other species of sea turtle. One example is of a hawksbill turtle with a loggerhead turtle in Brazil. In this case, the phenotype appeared to indicate one species, while the DNA analysis indicates the animal was a hybrid, with a copy of DNA from each of the two different species. At some point geneticists may need to re-define what constitutes a “species”.

The last few eggs most of the leatherback turtles lay are infertile, yolkless eggs.  No one is certain about the function of these eggs, although several theories have been suggested. Many unknowns exist about these turtles. Scientists have not yet found a means to determine the age of individual sea turtles, so no one knows how long-lived they are. The early genetic research on leatherbacks showed some information that surprised the scientists.  It had been thought that all leatherbacks foraging off the northwestern coast of USA originated in the eastern tropical Pacific, from nesting beaches in Mexico.  Careful DNA analysis, however, found that animals at California foraging grounds are part of the western Pacific genetic stock recently identified by Dutton and colleagues. Both Peter and Scott have emphasized that there is still much to learn, and they have just begun, however, much has also been learned during the past six years, including the origin of leatherbacks that utilize California waters.

Personal Log 

Yesterday the sun came out and it was a glorious evening.  A group of us watched the sunset from the flying bridge, and then later watched the moon rise.  It was spectacular, and with the ‘big eyes’, it was possible to see many of the moon’s craters.  The stars were also magnificent!  Today has been cloudy with a layer of fog eventually drenching the boat.  This weather has made yesterdays blue skies all the sweeter.

Words of the Day 

Mitochondrial DNA: DNA found within the mitochondria – originates from the mother; Clonal: identical to the original; Clutch: a single batch of eggs, laid together; Hybrid: one gene from one species and the second gene from a second species; Species: an organism that can mate with another of its own kind and produce fertile offspring.

Animals Seen Today 

Common dolphin Delphinus delphis, Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes, Moon jellies Aurelia labiata, Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens, and Common dolphins Delphinus delphis.

Questions of the Day 

  1. Geneticists are beginning to obtain new tools to figure out how similar animals are related to each other. What are some questions you have related to leatherback turtle genetics?
  2. Scott’s turtle map shows that leatherbacks nesting in the Western Pacific migrate across the Pacific to the coast of North America, while leatherbacks that nest in Costa Rica only migrate to waters off the South American coast.  Why might some populations stay in the same region, while others cross the Pacific Ocean?
Sunset over the port side
Sunset over the port side

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 18, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3543.3896 N Longitude: 12408.3432 W
Wind Direction: 129 (compass reading) SE
Wind Speed: 7.8 knots
Surface Temperature: 17.545

Blue shark seen on 9/18
Blue shark seen on 9/18

Science and Technology Log 

Today was an exciting one scientifically. The team has been examining all of the oceanographic data so far in order to pinpoint frontal edges for further data collection. They selected a point last night that might contain a biologically rich layer and hopefully, with jellies. After closely looking over every thing they have learned on this trip so far and plotting a destination to sample, we traveled to that station. We found an ocean water ‘river’ full of kelp, moon jellies, sea nettles and pelagic birds! It was exactly where the team predicted there might be a biotic stream!! This confirmed that offshore habitats can be found using oceanographic data and satellite imaging.  There certainly were offshore areas that would give leatherbacks a chance to eat their fill.  And through that period, the sun came up!  With only a slight breeze, the flying deck was warm and relaxing. It put us all into excellent spirits.

Personal Log 

Ray Capati shows off his Turtle Cake. (photo by Karin Forney)
Ray Capati shows off his Turtle Cake.

A few days ago, the chief steward made a cake- there are daily baked goods offered in the mess hall. This cake, however, was decorated for the LUTH Survey with turtles, kelp and jellyfish!  Today would have been another good day for that treat.  It is also time to get some pictures with C.J. our school mascot.  He was pretty happy to get out and see the ship.  He even tried to help up on the flying bridge, but without thumbs, it was hard for him to enter in observation comments.

Animals Seen Today 
Moon jellies Aurelia labiata, Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens, Salps Salpida spp., Sea gooseberries Pleurobrachia bachei, Red phalaropes Phalaropus fulicaria, Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris, Common dolphins Delphinus delphis, Blue sharks Prionace glauca, and Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea.

C.J. helps out on the flying bridge.
C.J. helps out on the flying bridge.

Questions of the Day 

  1. What might be some oceanographic conditions that would create a water mass filled with kelp and jellyfish?
  2. What other organisms (than we observed) might be attracted to such a water mass?

Marilyn Frydrych, September 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 18, 2008

Marilyn entering below deck.
Marilyn entering below deck.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 9 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

We suspended operations. The seas were from 8 to 9 feet for the next day and a half. Conditions were unsafe for the fishermen to work.  Everyone spent the day reading, playing board games, watching movies, or typing on the three computers provided for everyone’s use. Erin Earley, the engineer wiper, took the opportunity to show Jacquie and me the engine room.  She took us through all the portals marked, “Do Not Enter”.  They all had ladders under them leading to the bowels of the ship. The engine area was compartmentalized and was entered from different spots from above. Erin showed us the ubiquitous colored handles which turned the various valves on and off.

Marilyn ducking under pipes below deck
Marilyn ducking under pipes below deck

There were yellow handles for transmission oil pipes, green for seawater, orange for hydraulic fluid, red for emergency fire hose water, blue for drinking water, and brown for engine oil. We headed down under the galley where we passed next to the 12-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine which powered the screw. It was about ten times the size of a good-sized pickup engine. Erin explained the importance of placing all this heavy machinery so that the weight is evenly distributed within the ship. The engine being so heavy is usually near the center of the ship.  This necessitates a huge long drive shaft connecting it to the screw. The drive shaft, spinning away at high speed, was out in the open just under and alongside the catwalk. One slip would be catastrophic.  Most of what we saw was large 5’ by 5’ or larger rectangular tanks for fuel, distilled water, black water, gray water, and used oil.  The black water from the toilets is stored in a tank with “bugs” or a bacteria in it which eat the refuse and in effect clean up the water. The gray water is from the sinks and showers and contains soap which kills the bugs. The gray water has to be saved in tanks separate from the black water.  All this is dumped into the sea in designated areas.  Only the used oil is saved to be offloaded back at the dock.

Erin Earley pointing out hydraulic fluid pipes.
Erin Earley pointing out hydraulic fluid pipes.

We saw two workshop areas, a storeroom with all the parts that might be needed for any possible repair, an extra emergency generator, and the Engine Control Room (CERC), where Engineer Chris O’Keefe was standing watch. The CERC room contained all the gauges to monitor all the engine systems.  By the end of the tour Jacquie and I were totally impressed with how clean and organized everything was and how much knowledge the engineers needed.  The four of them had to be experts in heating and cooling, in welding, in diesel engine repair, in electrical repairs, and hydraulics.  Each of them had either mastered these fields or was in an apprenticeship with that as their goal. Usually people master one of these fields in a lifetime. We were also impressed with how many safety features were built in everywhere.  It seemed everywhere we went there were three foot CO2 bottles which would automatically spray everywhere if a fire were to occur.

Personal Log 

Two holding tanks
Two holding tanks

Sleeping was difficult for me that evening.  I did succumb to seasickness Friday morning, but was fine after downing a sea sickness pill.  We frittered away the rest of the day.  Robert Gamble, second scientist under Mike Jech, got out his game called Hive and taught three or four of us how to play. Otherwise I read, did Sudoku, rode the exercise bike, and ate.

The food was tremendously good.  All of it was prepared from scratch.  The two cooks were at least four star cooks. They not only cooked, they also cleaned up their own mess, did the dishes, and cleaned up the dining area.  They appeared the hardest workers on board.  For both lunch and dinner they prepared two entrees, three veggies, homemade soup, and two salads.  They baked two luscious desserts as well. So far we have sampled lamb chops, salmon, lobster bisque, crab ravioli, pork chops with a luscious applesauce, and grilled swordfish. 

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3614.8661 W Longitude: 12402.7415 N
Wind Direction: 190 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 2.1 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.230

Science and Technology Log 

Above is a spreadsheet of some of the Chrysaora fuscescens data that was collected on September 15.  The first trawl was at 4:48 pm, the second at 6:39 pm and the third at 8:20 pm.  A fourth trawl was deployed at 10:49 pm. A total of 204 jellies were sorted and measured.  Of these, the first 7jellies measured from trawl numbers’ 46, 47 and 48 are recorded above. All of the species in this data set are Chrysaora fuscescens. Using the spreadsheet, create a graph that compares mass to length for these 21 animals.  When you believe you have completed this, answer the questions listed below.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 1.48.14 AM

Questions:

  1. Is your graph complete?
  2. Check to see if you have included; all units-mass in kilograms, length in millimeters; a legend that includes the code of the points; title for each axis(length of jelly in millimeters, mass of jelly in kilograms); title for graph.
  3. Did you make a scatter plot, bar graph or line graph? The best choice would be a scatter plot, this may give an indication of patterns in the relationship between length and mass.
  4. Can you see any pattern?  Is there a relationship between mass and length? This would be indicated by a linear pattern in the points?
  5. Do there appear to be any points that do not fit a general pattern?  What might cause these points that do not fit the norm to exist?
  6. Compare your graph with the one shown below, generated by the computer.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 1.48.32 AM

These Chrysaora fuscescens were caught in “jelly lane”, in the waters near Pacifica, CA that are known to have large jelly populations.  It is also an area known for leatherback sightings because of this food source. A great deal of information is known about the oceanographic conditions in this near-shore habitat. The reason the LUTH survey is crisscrossing off the continental shelf, is that much less is known about deeper offshore waters as a potential food source for migrating leatherbacks.  The routes they travel on must have some food available, so we are working to find out where that is, and gain information about relationships to oceanographic variables so that researchers will be able to eventually estimate where that food is using satellite images that will be translated into jellyfish habitat.

Chico Gomez and Scott Benson sorting jellies.
Chico Gomez and Scott Benson sorting jellies.

Personal Log 

There was quite a bit of excitement today up on the flying bridge. Although we were traveling out beyond the continental shelf, we moved over a front of water that had an abundance of moon jellies.  It was unexpected and the scientific team became very excited. New plans were made based on this observation and a decision was made to cross back across the front and collect temperature data within the water column every 10 minutes.  Quantitative observations were made of all jellies seen port and starboard and a net trawl was deployed at one point along the zone of interest.  It was quite a day. We also spotted blue sharks, ocean sunfish, and a swordfish jumping.  It was a good day.

Animals Seen Today 

Extracting stomach contents from large C. fuscescens
Extracting stomach contents from large C. fuscescens
  • Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus 
  • Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens 
  • Moon jellies Aurelia aurita 
  • Northern Fur seal Callorhinus ursinus 
  • Elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris 
  • Swordfish Xiphias gladius 
  • Blue shark Prionace glauca 
  • Buller’s shearwater Puffinus bulleri 
  • Ocean sunfish Mola mola 
  • Rhinoceros auklet Cererhinca monocerata 
  • Black-footed Albatross
  • Phoebastria nigripes 

Questions of the Day 

  1. What might be possible reasons the scientific team was excited at finding jellyfish out beyond the continental shelf?
  2. The weather has been very calm and mostly overcast.  One of the officers told me he would much rather have those conditions, than windy and sunny.  What effect might wind have on a sturdy, ocean-going ship?
Ocean sunfish seen from flying bridge.
Ocean sunfish seen from flying bridge.
Sunset seen from flying bridge, the first sunset we’ve seen on this leg.
Sunset seen from flying bridge, the first sunset we’ve seen on this leg.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters

Deploying the fishing net
Deploying the fishing net

Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

A fisherman dumping the catch
A fisherman dumping the catch

The third day out was much like the second day. Our first job was to fish with the big net.  This time the chief scientist wanted to know what some small vertical echoes on the echogram were. He guessed that they were shrimp or krill. The acoustic echogram used three frequencies:  18 kHz, 38 kHz, and 120 kHz. If dots appeared in all three then he was pretty sure it was fish and most likely herring. These particular vertical dots appeared only in the 18 kHz echogram.  He guessed they were very small fish, but wanted to determine if the signature belonged to opening were huge metal doors.  They looked like doors, but in fact never closed. They were actually more like the front edge of an airplane wing. Their purpose was to stay parallel to each other and keep the net open. The net was rolled up on a large roller, which sat at the center back of the fantail. It was about 250 ft long.  When it was time to deploy, the fishermen used a winch to unwind the net. The person at the helm had to be extremely careful that the boat kept at a steady headway of about 3 to 4 knots. The doors were stored at the very end of the stern. With the help of their own hydraulic winches they were lifted to a spot where they could be attached to the net.  There was a place on each side of the net where the side wire changed to a chain link. The metal doors were clasped on these links and then dragged into the sea.  Another link in the wire was for heavy chains. Their weight of about 400 pounds each held the sides of the net down.

Fishermen setting up the recorder which is sent outwith the net.
Fishermen setting up the recorder sent outwith the net.

The night crew, on from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am were busy Wednesday night and on into the morning.  They did two CTD’s and three net deployments.  They left us about 50 herring and silver hake to observe in the morning.  Richie Logan, one of the fishermen, used these to write a birthday note to his daughter. Here’s his picture. Each time we sent out a net we were hoping for about half a clothes basketful of fish. Last night they filled 30 baskets.  Only about 1/3 of a basket is ever measured and weighed. The rest are tossed back.  Our chief scientist said he can remember processing enough to fill 60 baskets. So far most of the biomass in the basket has been krill. Mixed in with the krill are small anthropoids maybe a half inch square, jelly fish about twice that size, Illex squid from 2 to 6 inches long, baby silver hake, butterfish, or red hake. These last three are all in the neighborhood of 1 inch long.

This morning we pulled up a lamprey eel about 2 feet long and a couple two inch lumpfish in the evening.  Most of the fish were dead when we got to them.  We had to wait until the fishermen were totally finished with winding the net and had dumped the net’s contents onto the deck before we were allowed on the fantail. Then we sorted the large fish into clothes baskets and the smaller ones into small trays. Wednesday Jacquie Ostrom, another volunteer from Colorado Springs, noticed that two 3-inch lumpfish were moving.  She added some water to our rectangular sorting pan and a piece of clear hard plastic we had thought was some molt or litter also started to move. No one seemed to know what the “plastic” was.  After a quick reference to the Internet we learned it was the larva of the spiny lobster.

Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.
Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.

Personal Log 

We must have passed by the north-south migration path of the whales.  We didn’t spot any today. The work load is really light compared with teaching.  We work two or three hours cataloguing the catch after each trawl, clean up with the saltwater deck hose, and then wait for the next trawl maybe three or four hours later. A 20 minute CTD deployment every now and then is the only other work we are expected to do. The cruise is turning out to be very relaxing. I spend quite a bit of time just staring out at the sea, immersing myself in its gentle rhythm.

Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3720.718 N Longitude: 12230.301
Wind Direction: 69 (compass reading) NW
Wind Speed: 12.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.056

Scott measures a moon jelly as Amy records data.
Scott measures a moon jelly as Amy records data.

Science and Technology Log 

The LUTH Survey is a collaborative effort to gather as much oceanographic data from this small part of the Pacific Ocean as possible.  Although the primary objective is to characterize this area for its potential as leatherback habitat, it is also an opportunity for other scientists to gather data that reinforces their studies. Everyone on this cruise, aside from myself, is employed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.  The regional area that this group works in is the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.  There are nine scientists who have very different specializations.  The following flow chart outlines how each department is related to the others.

Crewmembers practice suction cup tagging of leatherbacks from a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB).
Crewmembers practice suction cup tagging of leatherbacks from a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB).

Every division is focused on different aspects of oceanography.  Scott Benson is our chief scientist and leatherback specialist.  Karin Forney is the research biologist on the team whose expertise is marine mammals and regulations out to the limit of United States waters.  This limit is the EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone – and extends for 200 miles west of the coast. Peter Dutton is currently the leader of the Marine Turtle Genetics Program, here to gain additional insight into foraging habitats of the leatherback.  Liz Zele, oceanographer, and Justin Garver as oceanography intern, manage the collection and processing of oceanographic data from the CTDs and XBTs. Steven Bograd is supporting the data collection as a research oceanographer. Both George (Randy) Cutter and Juan Zwolinski collect and interpret the acoustic data.  Randy’s area of expertise is with fisheries acoustics, seafloor mapping and autonomous underwater vehicles.  Juan’s specialty is in acoustic estimation of small pelagic fish.  Amy Hapeman is aboard as a permit analyst to gain a better understanding of how the science data are collected.  Together, this dynamic group will work to put together a better picture of what habitat might be available to leatherback turtles here off the continental shelf of California. They are all excited to be here, greatly enjoy their professions, and hope to assist in leatherback turtle protection.

Justin prepares to collect head and organs for research.
Justin prepares to collect head and organs for research.

The night of September 13, a few members of the research team, with assistance from crewmembers, took advantage of the relatively warm water the Jordan was crossing and tried to fish for squid. Not really expecting much more than a short fight with a 12 inch mollusk, we were in for a surprise. Using a fluorescent lure, and a 50lb test, the line was dropped about 200m into the dark sea. Within 5 minutes, the line began to tug, and tug, AND TUG!!  The oceanographer/fisher used a tremendous amount of strength to reel in the organism on the other end of the line. Victor, crewmember and experienced squid fisher, gaffed the squid as soon as it surfaced in the water. Shock was on every face as we acknowledged we were not expecting a 65cm long, 30-40lb animal!  As soon as the tentacles that it grabbed the lure with were detached from the lure, Justin was ready to go again!  And within 5 minutes another squid was caught, easily the same size as the first.  This brought another three scientists and one crewmember out with additional reels. 

Two Humboldt squid fresh from the Pacific!
Two Humboldt squid fresh from the Pacific!

Within an hour, eight squid were aboard, plans were made for a calamari feast and measuring began. Karin Forney, after observing the commotion, quickly retrieved an email from a colleague who is conducting research on this species of squid, and who requested that we preserve the head and internal organs for later genetic analysis.  Several Ziplock bags were readied and the cleaning began. In the end there were calamari steaks for everyone and their 10 best friends, tentacles for several pots of soup and research samples collected for additional analysis. This species of squid is of concern since it had been uncommon off the central California coast until after the 1998 El Nino event, which brought warm waters up from the tropical Pacific side. Now it is much more abundant. The Humboldt squid is a voracious predator and there is great interest in understanding its potential impact on other species, especially those of commercial value.

Randy and Mary Anne cleaning Humboldt Squid.
Randy and Mary Anne cleaning Humboldt Squid.

Animals Seen Today 
Blue shark Prionace glauca, Humboldt squid Dosidicus gigas, Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea, and Common redpoll Carduelis flammea.

Words of the Day 
Gaff: hook attached to a long pole used to bring in a catch Characterize: to decide what the parts are that together create something Acoustic: sound wave information El Nino: a cyclic climate event originating in the tropical Pacific that is associated with unusually warm waters that impact the west coast of North and South America.

Joao preparing his secret calamari marinade.
Joao preparing his secret calamari marinade.

Questions of the Day 

  1. A squid is classified as a mollusk, which is a single shelled marine animal.  Where is the single shell on this animal?
  2. What are some of the reasons the study of leatherback turtles is so complex?

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Marilyn Frydrych, September 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 16, 2008

The Newston net hanging from a pulley on the A-frame
The Newston net hanging from a pulley on the A-frame

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Today started slowly since we were still in transit to our starting position.  All morning there were 15 to 20 terns and gulls flying nearby.  Occasionally we’d spot land birds.  A small yellow-rumped warbler actually flew into the dry lab area of the boat. It was far from where it belonged and probably wouldn’t make it back.  The terns skimmed the water surface, but never actually seemed to touch the water.  Our bird scientists, Marie-Caroline Martin and Timothy White, decided they would deploy a Newston net to try to determine what the birds were eating. The fishermen, who do all the deploying of instruments, hung the net from the A-frame pulley on the starboard side and swung it out over the water. For 20 minutes it bounced in and out of the water never getting more than a foot or so above or below the surface. The Neuston fine mesh net is about 10 feet long and has a mouth about 4 feet by 2 feet.

Jim Pontz, a fisherman, working the A-frame.
Jim Pontz, a fisherman, working the A-frame.

When the fishermen brought it in, it mostly held salp and  jellyfish, but also some small crustaceans which looked like miniature shrimp about 1/2 in. long.  The jellyfish were small, without stingers.  Marie carefully washed the contents of the net down to its opening with a salt water hose.  Then she used her unprotected hands to slide her catch into a glass jar about the size of a medium peanut butter jar. She graciously separated a few of the crustaceans for us to observe. About 11:30 a.m. we finally reached our starting point. The plan was to do parallel north-south transects.  We would cross the east-west transects without stopping . We fished with a huge net off the stern. The chief scientist, Dr Michael Jech, decided when to fish. Sometimes he put the net in to prove that there were no herring there and the echoes he was receiving were correct.  Other times he saw a new signature on the screen and checked to see what it might have been.  Still other times he recognized the herring signature (he’s about 90% accurate) and  fished to determine sizes, sexes, and stomach content.  At other times he had predetermined stations where fishing had been good in the past.

A herring in a clothes basket. Note the brilliant blue stripe on top.
A herring in a clothes basket. Note the brilliant blue stripe on top.

At each 90 degree turn we deployed a CTD – conductivity, temperature, and depth instrument. The instrument measured how easily electricity can flow through the seawater, its conductivity. From this and the temperature and pressure (or depth) the salinity of the water can be determined.  The equations involve the 5th power of both temperature and pressure. They appear to be Taylor’s series approximations.  The CTD is also used to calculate the speed of sound which is important for the accuracy of the sonar equipment.  Only the crew may actually deploy instruments.  None of the scientists touch the instruments going over the side. The scientific crew’s job was to communicate via a handheld radio with the fishermen working the winch and the one putting the instrument into the water.  We told them when to start after we had initialized the computer programs and when to haul back the CTD as it came within a few feet of the ocean bottom. We could simultaneously look at a cam on a nearby monitor showing what was happening at the A frame.  I watched the first time this was done, but with everyone’s help soon caught on and was doing it myself.

Jacquie Ostrom at her post radioing the fishermen when to start the CTD
Jacquie Ostrom at her post radioing the fishermen when to start the CTD

The second time I helped with the CTD we attached a Niskin water bottle to the bottom of the CTD and signaled to have it stopped about half way back up the ever present bottom layer isotherm.  We paused for about a minute as it filled with the surrounding water.  At that point both ends were wide open. A fisherman dropped a messenger, a heavy round metal doughnut, down the line to the bottle.  It tripped a lever which then allowed the lids connected with tremendously strong elastic bands to snap shut.  The tube is a little larger than a 2-liter soda bottle. When we were given the retrieved bottle, we washed out a small, maybe 1-cup, bottle 3 times with the seawater from the Niskin bottle before we filled and capped it and replaced it in its position in a crate.  The water can be used to calibrate the salinity readings the CTD recorded and to determine various other chemicals at that spot of collection in the ocean.

Sunset silhouetting the CTD bottle balancing against one arm of the A-frame.
Sunset silhouetting the CTD bottle balancing against one arm of the A-frame.

Personal Log 

Today being the first full day at sea I was introduced to a wonderful daily ritual. Each morning at about 10:30 the chiefs brought out from the oven their first baked dessert of the day. Today’s was the most perfectly seasoned peach cobbler I’ve ever tasted. Once toward evening we spotted dolphins around the ship. We could occasionally see them jumping through the air. A pair played in the bow wake for a short while. About the same time the crew pointed out to us some three or four pilot whales about 100 yards off the starboard stern. I hadn’t expected to see so much sea life.  This is turning into a very memorable adventure.

 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 15, 2008

The Delaware II  (Photo courtesy Jacquie Ostram)
The Delaware II (Photo courtesy Jacquie Ostram)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

The purpose of my trip on the Delaware II was to find interesting venues for presenting various math lessons to students at Pikes Peak Community College where I teach and to students of different grades and ages at the K-12 public schools in Colorado Springs. We left on time yesterday, though I was unaware of the departure. I had been busy unpacking my things and making my bed.  Then I decided to learn my way around the boat.  I happened to look through a porthole and noticed we were about 25 yards from the peer.  The NOAA Corps officer, ENS Charlene Felkley, taking us out had used the bow thruster to move us away from the dock. It was so smooth that I hadn’t noticed any movement.  I thought that strange considering the size of the Delaware 2.  We steamed all day toward our station about 250 miles east of Cape Cod. 

NOAA’s dock at Woods Hole, Massachusetts
NOAA’s dock at Woods Hole, Massachusetts

After we were out of the channel we started our drills.  We’d all been given a station billet stating where our stations were for emergencies.  The first was a fire drill followed by an abandon ship drill. I started to my station at the stern for the fire drill, but one of the engineers redirected me to the bow stating that the fire was in the stern.  About 15 of us gathered in the bow. We had all carried our survival suit, life vest, long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves, and anything we thought we might need.  I brought as extras my sunglasses and a bottle of water. When we were dismissed, about 15 minutes later after the officers and crew had practiced using the fire hoses by spaying over the side of the boat, we proceeded to the stern where those of us who had not been on the last cruise dressed in our survival suits.  I soon learned that the easiest way to put on a survival suit is to stretch the legs and boots out on the deck, sit down in its middle, draw its legs onto your legs, stand up and finish with the upper body. Pulling the zipper up proved quite difficult.  The hood enveloped my face and I could feel its suction.  The suit is designed to keep the cold water away from your body. It was well insulated but still in icy cold waters would only protect you for about an hour.

Jacquie Ostrom and Marilyn on the bow
Jacquie Ostrom and Marilyn on the bow

Personal Log 

That evening we spotted some whales spouting.  It was migration time so we must have been crossing their path as they headed south. We were told they were probably humpback whales because of their size and the shape of their spouts.  I saw a couple fins, but mostly just their massive bodies surfacing.  I learned about “fin prints” the spot where their fin flattens the water.  The little ripples, prevalent everywhere on the ocean’s surface, seem to be smoothed out at the spot where the fin hits the water. These areas were about 6 ft by 4 ft and glistened smooth in the setting sun. We watched spout after spout for about 2 hours.

Marilyn and Debbie Duarte on the bow
Marilyn and Debbie Duarte on the bow
Our four bunk room.  Debbie Durate on the night shift and Jacquie Ostrom and I on the day shift shared this room.  It was understood we were not to return to the room any time during our 12 hour shift. The shower is behind the sink and not much wider.
Our four bunk room. Debbie Durate on the night shift and Jacquie Ostrom and I on the day shift shared this room. It was understood we were not to return to the room any time during our 12 hour shift. The shower is behind the sink and not much wider.
Marilyn in survival suit
Marilyn in survival suit
Robert Gambel, scientist, standing in front of our fishing net ready to put on his survival suit
Robert Gambel, scientist, standing in front of our fishing net ready to put on his survival suit

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3720.718 N Longitude: 12230.301
Wind Direction: 69 (compass reading) NW
Wind Speed: 12.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.056

Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day
Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day

Science and Technology Log 

A lot of physical science is involved in oceanographic research.  An understanding of wave mechanics is utilized to obtain sonar readings. This means that sound waves of certain frequencies are emitted from a source.  The concepts to understand in order to utilize acoustic readings are:

  1. Sound and electromagnetic waves travel in a straight line from their source and are reflected when they contact an object they cannot pass through.
  2. Frequency is defined as the number of waves that pass a given point per second (or another set period of time).  The faster the wave travels, the greater the number of waves that go past a point in that time. Waves with a high frequency are moving faster than those with a low frequency. Those waves travel out in a straight line until they contact an object of a density that causes them to reflect back.
  3. The speed with which the waves return, along with the wavelength they were sent at, gives a ‘shadow’ of how dense the object is that reflected the wave, and gives an indication of the distance that object is from the wave source (echo sounder). As jellyfish, zooplankton and other organisms are brought up either with the bongo net or the trawl net, examinations of the acoustic readings are done to begin to match the readings with organisms in the area at the time of the readings.  On the first leg of the survey, there were acoustic patterns that appeared to match conditions that are known to be favorable to jellyfish.  Turtle researchers have, for years, observed certain characteristics of stretches of ocean water that have been associated with sea nettle, ocean sunfish and leatherbacks. Now, by combining acoustic readings, salinity, temperature and chlorophyll measurements, scientists can determine what the exact oceanographic features are that make up ‘turtle water’.
Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering at night.
Computer images of acoustic scattering at night.

Acoustic data, consisting of the returns of pulses of sound from targets in the water column, is now used routinely to determine fish distribution and abundance, for commercial fishing and scientific research. This type of data has begun to be used to quantify the biomass and distribution of zooplankton and micronekton. Sound waves are continuously emitted from the ship down to the ocean floor. Four frequencies of waves are transmitted from the echo-sounder.  The data is retrieved and converted into computerized images. Both photo 1 and photo 2 give the acoustic readings. The “Y” axis is depth down to different depths, depending on the location.  The frequencies shown are as follows for the four charts on the computer screen; top left is 38kHz, bottom left is 70 kHz, top right is 120kHz and bottom right is 200 kHz.  In general the higher frequencies will pick up the smallest particles (organisms) while the lowest reflect off the largest objects. Photo 1 shows a deep-water set of images, with small organisms near the surface. This matches the fact that zooplankton rise close to the surface at night.  Photo 2 gives a daylight reading.

A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.
A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.

It is more difficult to interpret.  The upper one-fourth is the acoustic reading and the first distinct horizontal line from the top represents the ocean floor.  Images below that line are the result of the waves bouncing back and forth, giving a shadow reading.  But the team here was very excited: for this set of images shows an abundance of organisms very near the surface. And the trawl that was deployed at that time resulted in lots and lots of jellyfish.  They matched.  Periodically, as the acoustic data is collected, samples are also collected at various depths to ‘ground truth’ the readings.  This also allows the scientists to refine their interpretations of the measurements.  The technology now can give estimates of size, movement and acoustic properties of individual planktonic organisms, along with those of fish and marine mammals.  Acoustic data is used to map the distribution of jellyfish and estimate the abundance in this region. By examining many acoustic readings and jellyfish netted, the scientists will be able to identify the acoustic pattern from jellyfish.

Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.
Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.

The sensor for the acoustic equipment is mounted into the hull, with readings taken continually.  Background noise from the ship must be accounted for, along with other types of background noise. Some events observed on board, such as a school of dolphins being sighted, can be correlated (matched) to acoustic readings aboard the ship.  Since it is assumed that only a portion of the dolphins in a pod are actually sighted, with the remaining under the surface, the acoustic correlation gives an indication of population size in the pod.  The goal of continued acoustic analysis is to be able to monitor long term changes in zooplankton or micronekton biomass. This monitoring can then lead to understanding the migration, feeding strategies and monitor changes in populations of marine species.

A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.
A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.

Personal Log 

Several small birds have stopped in over the week, taking refuge on the Jordan. Many bird species make long migrations, often at high altitude, along the Pacific flyway.  Some will die of exhaustion along the way, or starvation, and some get blown off their original course.  Most ships out at sea appear to be an island, a refuge for tired birds to land on.  They may stay for a day, a week, or longer. Their preferred food source may not be available however, and some do not survive on board.  Some die because they are just too tired, or perhaps ill, or for unknown reasons. We have had a few birds, and some have disappeared after two days.  We hope they took off to finish their trip. Since we were in site of land all day today, it could be the dark junco headed to shore. ‘Our’ common redpoll did not survive, so he was ‘buried at sea’, with a little ceremony.  About half an hour ago, a stormy petrel came aboard.  He did not seem well, but after a bit of rest, we watched him take off.  We wish him well.

Words of the Day 

Acoustic data: sound waves (sonar) of certain frequencies that are sent out and bounce off objects, with the speed of return an indication of the objects distance from the origin; Echo sounder: device that emits sonar or acoustic waves Dense or density: how highly packed an object is  measured as mass/volume; Distribution: the number and kind of organisms in an area; Biomass:  the combined mass of a sample of living organisms; Micronekton: free swimming small organisms; Zooplankton: small organisms that move with the current; Pacific flyway: a general area over and next to the Pacific ocean that some species of birds migrate along.

Animals Seen Today 
Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa
Herring gull Larus argentatus
Heermann’s gull  Larus heermanni
Common murr  Uria aalge
Humpback whale  Megapterea novaeangliae
California sea lion Zalophus californianus
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus
Brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Harbor seal Phoca vitulina
Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens
Moon jellies Aurelia aurita
Egg yolk jellies Phacellophora camtschatica 

Questions of the Day 
Try this experiment to test sound waves.  Get two bricks or two, 4 inch pieces of 2 x 4 wood blocks. Stand 50 ft opposite a classroom wall, and clap the boards together. Have others stand at the wall so they can see when you clap. Listen for an echo.  Keep moving away and periodically clap again. At some distance, the sound of the clap will hit their ears after you actually finish clapping. With enough distance, the clap will actually be heard after your hands have been brought back out after coming together.

  1. Can you calculate the speed of the sound wave that you generated?
  2. Under what conditions might that speed be changed?
  3. Would weather conditions, which might change the amount of moisture in the air, change the speed? 

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 13, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3645.9407 N Longitude: 12501.4783 W
Wind Direction: 344(compass reading) NE
Wind Speed: 13.5 knots
Surface Temperature: 14.197

Computer generated map of sampling area using satellite and in situ data. The satellite image on the right includes land (white) on the right edge, of the area between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.
Computer generated map of sampling area using satellite and in situ data. The satellite image on the right includes land (white) on the right edge, of the area between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.

Science and Technology Log 

As the scientific team conducts its research locating areas where jellyfish congregate, they have determined that samples need to be taken along both sides of a warm water/cold water boundary.  The charts below comprise a computer-generated chart of water temperature in the area we are focusing on. The chart on the right was created from remotely sensed data obtained from a satellite, and a small square of that is enlarged on the left. The chart on the left is produced from a computer model that smoothes out the lines and includes data taken continuously from the ship and integrated into the chart. Although hard to read at this resolution, the legend shows where CTD’s have been deployed, along with XBT’s, which record temperature. It also marks where upcoming deployments will take place. Net trawls were also deployed to collect samples of jellyfish that might be in the region. The quest is on for good turtle habitat.

After examining these charts above, please answer the following questions:

  1. What can you tell about the temperature of the water just off the coastline for most of that area of California?
  2. What range temperature of water does it appear that the LUTH survey is currently sampling in?
  3. Would you expect to find the same organisms in each of the samples? Why or why not?
  4. What might cause temperatures to be different in some parts of the ocean?

The Expendable Bathy Thermograph (XBT), consists of a long copper wire shot into the water down to 760 m.  When kept in the water for 2 minutes, the cable registers a signal to a dedicated computer, giving temperature readings along the wire, which are immediately plotted onto a graph.

After looking at this graph, answer the following questions:

  1. What temperature is measured at the surface?
  2. At what depth below the surface does the temperature start to drop dramatically? How many degrees Celsius is the drop?
  3. How many more degrees does the temperature drop, after the initial quick decrease? In how many meters does this gradual drop occur?

The LUTH survey is very interested in finding out whether jellyfish are found in the colder water (yellow and green), and how the distribution changes through the changing temperature of the water. Their questions surround what conditions would allow leatherbacks to travel along certain routes to and from the California coast, and how to identify areas of productivity so that commercial fishing can occur without harming protected species. Every jellyfish caught, either by the net trawls or the bongo net, and oceanographic data collected at the same time, provides more insight into where favorable conditions might exist.

Personal Log 

Computer generated graph of XBT data from 8/28/08 at 18:15:30 (6:15 pm)
Computer generated graph of XBT data from 8/28/08 at 18:15:30 (6:15 pm)

It is a very different lifestyle to have a profession that involves living for periods of time aboard a ship. Most of us land-based folks get up, wander through the house, eventually rounding up food and heading off to school or work.  For me, after a day full of movement all over Chico Junior High’s large school grounds, I may go to the store, run errands and then return home to read the paper, clean house, and prepare dinner.  My family will eventually arrive home and we will go over the day’s events.  Here, the crew spends up to 23 days in this home, office and recreational area, away from their families.  Two cooks prepare, serve buffet-style and clean up after all meals; serving at 7am, 11am and 5pm.  During off hours, I have observed T.V. or movie watching, card games in action and some gym use.

Many people have iPods and in some areas music is broadcast. Personal computers with satellite internet capabilities are used, I assume, to communicate with friends and family on land.  It is interesting that the ‘living room’, which is also the mess hall, may have 10 colleagues in it sometimes watching a show. I am used to cooking when I choose, or just making cookies if I want or heading outside to jog with my dog after school. No such activities like that happen here.  Every one in the crew seems to get along, is extremely polite to each other, and is also very pleasant.  It takes a very flexible person to enjoy living on a ship and a certainly love for the ocean.  I am enjoying this very different way of living, and will also enjoy when I can run a few miles through the park again.

Animals Seen Today 
Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens
Comb jellies Kiyohimea spp.
Sea gooseberry Pleurobrachia bachei
Common dolphins Delphinus delphis
Jack mackerel Trachurus symmetricus
Wilson’s warbler Wilsonia citrine
Yellow-rumped warbler Dendroica coronata 

Questions for the Day 
1. What part of your regular pattern would be easiest to give up, if you were to live aboard a ship?  Which parts would be hardest?

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 11, 2008

CTD deployment
CTD deployment

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3647.6130 W Longitude: 12353.1622 N
Wind Direction: 56 (compass reading) NE
Wind Speed: 25.7 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.295

Science and Technology Log 

One important piece of equipment on many NOAA research ships is the CTD (Conductivity and Temperature with Depth).  This eight chambered water collection device is attached to electronic sensors. When the CTD is deployed below the ocean’s surface, it is dropped carefully to a predetermined depth; today’s was 500 m. All water collection chambers are open for water to flow through. After the oceanographer in charge of deployment examines a computer readout of the CTD after it has been lowered to its’ maximum depth, it is decided at which depths water samples will be collected as the CTD is brought back up.At these intervals, water sample collectors (Niskin bottles) are closed and water collected.  Up to eight samples are collected as it rises to the surface.

CTD reading; salinity, oxygen, pressure, and fluorometer voltage
CTD reading: salinity, oxygen, pressure, and voltage

After the CTD has been secured on deck, each sample is carefully extracted into collection bottles. Each water sample is filtered through a vacuum system in order to extract chlorophyll from that water sample.  The extracted chlorophyll is later run through a fluorometer, which calculates the volume of chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b which indicates the intensity of photosynthetic microorganisms in that layer. Lots of chlorophyll indicates a rich biological region, which may support many types of marine life.  In addition, the CTD collects samples that will be analyzed for the amount of salts they contain in order to confirm the sensors values. Values that change to the left are decreasing. The reading on the top right shows how the temperature, in red, changes very quickly from the surface down to 500 m.  The green indicates some chlorophyll until it drops significantly below 100 m, where light no longer penetrates well. Oxygen levels are in blue, also decreasing with depth.

Questions of the Day 

  1. What is the importance of chlorophyll to marine mammals and amphibians?
  2. Why is an understanding of how pressure and depth below the ocean’s surface are related critical to marine sciences?
Water samples being filtered through a vacuum system to extract chlorophyll.
Water samples being filtered through a vacuum system to extract chlorophyll.

 

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 11, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3647.6130W Longitude: 12353.1622 N
Wind Direction: 56 (compass reading) NE
Wind Speed: 25.7 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.295

Bongo net being deployed to collect specimens
Bongo net being deployed to collect specimens

Science and Technology Log 

One oceanographic phenomena of interest is the deep scattering layer (DSL). This is a zooplankton and micronekton rich layer that is found below the depth that light penetrates to in the daytime. After sunset, this DSL layer migrates up closer to the surface.  In some locations the daytime DSL may be at a depth of 225-250 m depth in this area of the California current ecosystem, and 0-100 m during the night. It is hypothesized that the organisms stay deeper down during the daytime to avoid predation, and move up toward the surface at night when it is safer from predators.  Oceanographers take advantage of this information. Every evening, two hours after sunset, bongo nets are deployed to a depth of 200m and then slowly brought to the surface to get a sample of the entire water column.  The purpose is to collect samples of those organisms that are found in the DSL. During the day these organisms would be much deeper down below the surface, but at night they are much closer.

Chart that converts wire length and angle to depth
Chart that converts wire length and angle to depth

The process begins with opening up the large plankton nets and attaching a weight in between the loops of the frame.  The frame is hooked to a cable that is maneuvered by a winch operator.  After the bongo net is swung out from the ship, a large protractor, an inclinometer, is attached. This is used to give the Officer of the Deck (OOD) driving on the bridge an indication of speed needed to deploy the net at. The OOD adjusts the speed of the ship to maintain the required angle, which allows the net to remain open for collection and reach the desired depth. Looking at the chart above, you can see that the angle the wire is deployed at, along with the amount of wire paid out, can be converted to a given depth. Trigonometry at work. There is also a flow meter attached inside each of the bongo loops. The readings from this give an indication of the volume of water that passed through the nets. When the bongo is retrieved, before the end is detached, each net is rinsed with salt water from a hose in order to retrieve as much of the sample as possible in the cod end. This end is detached and brought into the lab.  One of the samples is examined in the lab, for relative types, while the other sample is preserved in formaldehyde and sodium borate for later examination and identification.

Stateroom on the Jordan
Stateroom on the Jordan

Personal Log 

It is very interesting being rocked to sleep each night.  Being on the top bunk, I am about 2 feet from the ceiling, with several pipes suspended from the ceiling.  Once settled in bed, there is little opportunity to move around much.  But being slowly rocked from side to side is a very interesting sensation, and is relaxing.  It is becoming easier to tell how calm the water is that the ship is moving through, or a little about the weather, since sometimes we rock up and down, instead of from side to side. We were told that when it gets really rough it is a good idea to place a life jacket under the edge of the mattress to keep us from falling out.  Each bed has a dark curtain edging it, since many of the crew and scientists may have opposite shifts. Since there is no porthole in my stateroom, when the lights are out and the curtain is closed, it is very dark. It would be impossible to tell night from day, except by an internal clock or a timepiece.  It has been comfortable sleeping.  Getting up is the only difficult part, maneuvering in the small space of the bunk and being careful not to disturb my bunkmate, Liz.  Her schedule varies from mine, due to her bongo net responsibilities and CTD expertise.  So far the sleeping arrangement has worked out well.

Words of the Day 

 Stateroom dresser aboard the Jordan
Stateroom dresser aboard the Jordan

Distribution: the local species and numbers of organisms in an area; Biomass: the combined mass of a sample of living organisms; Micronekton: free swimming small organisms; Zooplankton: small organisms that move with the current; Predation: the process of organisms eating other organisms to survive; Inclinometer: protractor designed to measure altitude from the horizon.

Questions of the Day 

  1. What organisms do you know of that change their feeding strategy at different times of the day?
  2. In the local creek, river, or lake near you, are there both micronekton and zooplankton?  How could you find out?

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 10, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3736.6398 N Longitude: 12336.2210 W
Wind Direction: 220 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 11.3 knots
Surface Temperature: 14.638

This moon jelly was captured with the mid-water net.  Its bell was 35.5 cm wide.   The purplish pattern represents the gonads, which the turtles love to eat.
This moon jelly was captured with the mid-water net. Its bell was 35.5 cm wide. The purplish pattern represents the gonads, which the turtles love to eat.

Science and Technology Log

The mid-water net was just deployed.  This is a new net for the research team to use.  On the trip north, during the first part of this cruise, the last net became mangled during use.  A new, larger net was obtained and the crew is working out how best to deploy it.  After three tries, they seem to have determined the best way to lay it out, release it, and winch it back in. The David Starr Jordan is now heading over to the off shore area outside of Point Reyes, where the plan will be to deploy it for only one to two minutes.

The jellyfish there are usually so numerous that they will fill the net immediately.  Leatherbacks eat jellyfish of many kinds, but they love the types in the Pelagiidae family.  These are the types with long hanging arms, which the turtles snack on until they get up into the body cavity. The jellyfish are then eaten from the insides, with a soft-bodied bell left behind. The bell-shaped body of this family can be as large as 55 cm.    The favorite of leatherback, so the one we will hope to find in abundance, is the Sea nettle, Chrysaora fuscescens. These are most numerous in August and September in specific locations off the California coast, so it can be anticipated that leatherbacks will also be found there.  The predictability of this occurrence is the reason leatherbacks have evolved to travel the Pacific Ocean from Asia every year. 

Unidentified songbird, hopping a ride aboard the Jordan.
Unidentified songbird, hopping a ride aboard the Jordan.

The ship, David Starr Jordan, was built in 1965, so is among the oldest of the fleet of NOAA research ships.  The age can be found in the cabinet design, the flooring material and little features. Never the less, it has been built for sustained trips at sea for up to 23 days in length. There is a steward on board who creates elaborate lunches and dinners daily. Last night’s dinner included Filet Mignon, shrimp in butter sauce, two soups, sautéed vegetables, and at least four other hot dishes. There is always a salad bar set up and 24-hour hot beverages, cereal, toast, ice cream, yogurts and fruit. Everyone eats well.

In the crew’s lounge, drawers of over 200 current films are stored, including new releases. They have been converted to 8 mm tape to accommodate the video system on board.  There is also a small gym with a treadmill, stationary bicycle and bow-flex machine.  A laundry room completes the ‘home’ environment. At least three showers are available.  The ship has a system to desalinate water, which is a slow process, so water conservation is suggested.  This means:  wet yourself down, turn off the water, soap up and scrub, then turn the water on and rinse off.  Repeat if necessary. There are no water police, but we all have an interest in enough water being available.

Although the food has looked great, I have found that until I get my ‘sea legs’ I need to stay away from most food.  Yesterday evening, I discovered that the lunch and dinner I ate; did not look as good coming out as it did going down.  Today is better, but I will stick to yogurt, oatmeal, and tea for a bit.

Animals Sighted Today 
Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens
Moon jellies Aurelia aurita
Egg yolk jellies Phacellophora camtschatica
Ocean sunfish Mole mole
Humpback whale Megapterea novaeangliae
Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus
Common murre Uria aalge
Black phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Red phalarope Phalaropus fulicaria
Buller’s shearwater Puffinus bulleri
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus
Brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Brandt’s cormorant Phalacrocorax penicillatus
Dall’s porpoise Phocoenoides dalli 

Questions of the Day 

  1. What type of data is considered ‘oceanographic’ data?
  2. What types of organisms produce chlorophyll in the ocean?

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 10, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3737.3158 N Longitude: 12337.1670 W
Wind Direction: 234 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 9.7 knots
Surface Temperature: 14.638

Deck crew setting up the mid-water net to be deployed off the back deck.
Deck crew setting up the mid-water net to be deployed off the back deck.

Science and Technology Log 

Two consistent methods of data collection on the survey include netting and collecting oceanographic data. Up to three times a day a mid-water net is carefully dropped off the back, and towed at the surface. The last two times the net has been pulled in one or two moon jellies have been caught. Each specimen is weighed and measured, then tossed back. Every evening, two hours after sunset, a bongo net is deployed off the side of the boat. With weights added, it is designed to drop as far as 300 m below the surface. Since there are two nets collecting, the scientists are able to retrieve and preserve the contents of one, to be analyzed for species composition later, and examine the second here on the boat.  This is done two hours after sunset since many organisms come much closer to the surface after dark, when their predators are less likely to find them.

Another important tool that is used to collect oceanographic data is the CTD.  This CTD has eight chambers and can collect samples from eight different water depths.  It is carefully dropped down to 500 m (or more if needed), and then a chamber is opened at intervals determined by the scientist collecting the samples. Every waking hour the temperature of the ocean is sampled using a XBT “gun” that shoots out a 760 meter long copper wire. XBT stands for Expendable Bathy thermograph. The weighted wire is kept in the ocean until a stable reading is obtained.  This gives an indication of the temperature gradient from the surface down to 760 meters in the immediate area. 

Personal Log 

Two Dall’s porpoise gliding next to the ship.
Two Dall’s porpoise gliding next to the ship.

The first 24 hours were smooth sailing through overcast but calm seas.  We have had two visits by common dolphins who have seen the boat, told their 4 or 5 best buddies, and come over to ‘ride the bow.’ They glide under the surface, leap up through the waves and glide some more.  They are having a blast. The second time was less convenient for the research, since the mid-water net could not be deployed with marine mammals in the area. And the dolphins wouldn’t leave!! So deployments had to wait 45 minutes for the dolphins to get tired and go find another playground. Yesterday a net drop deployment was almost postponed again, for a large pod of white-sided dolphins spotted behind the boat. They swam perpendicular to the ship however, and stayed a good distance away. It was estimated that there were

180 of them! That was it for yesterday. The first afternoon, we saw one humpback whale spouting and then it showed its fluke as it went under.  Another four were seen in the distance. We are all looking forward to more sightings.  The primary job that I and another ship visitor have, is to act as observers up on the flying bridge, one half hour before the net is scheduled to be dropped, and stay until the net is retrieved.  Because of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, all activity that could put these animals at risk must not be done if any marine mammals are in the area. So I sit up on the highest deck, and watch.  There is a walkie-talkie next to me, a computer set to log any sightings of interest, including jellies that float by and high-powered binoculars to scan the surface.  With snacks and beverages always handy in the mess hall, I can be quite cozy.

Animals Seen So Far 
Humpback whale Megapterea novaeangliae
Common dolphin Delphinus delphis
Pacific white-sided dolphin Lagenorhynchus olbiquidens
California Sea lion Zalophus californianus
Moon jelly Aurelia labiata
Egg yolk jelly Phacellophora camtschatica
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus
Buller’s Shearwater Puffinus bulleri  

We also have a few lost, confused song birds on board-who are happily eating up insects for us Western tanager Piranga ludoviciana Townsend’s warbler Dendroica townsendi 

Questions of the Day 

  1. What is the purpose of scientific names in international research?
  2. To become a marine scientist, what fields of science are required as background?

Alex Eilers, September 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT
Teacher at Sea Alex Eilers releasing an XBT

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: September 1, 2008

Science Log

The second week has been absolutely fabulous as we found a leatherback – in fact we found three!!! This week has been all about the turtle: from identifying the biotic and abiotic conditions that define leatherback turtle habitat and foraging grounds, to tracking and tagging – we’ve done it all.

• Abiotic oceanographic data provided by scientific instruments such as XBTs (expendable bathythermographs), CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth), and water samples containing nutrient data to characterize the abiotic foraging habitats of the leatherback turtle.

Alex working with the CTD device
Alex working with the CTD device

• Net tow samples characterized the biotic conditions such as the jellyfish species prevalent in the turtle diet: moon jellies, sea nettles, and egg yolk jellies.

Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly
Alex Eilers measuring a moon jelly
Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole
Egg yolk jelly with pipefish and larval rex sole
Tracking the turtles via air surveillance and handheld antenna
Tracking the turtles via handheld antenna
Aerial survellance
Aerial surveillance
Tagging a big leatherback
Tagging a big leatherback

Alex Eilers, August 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 31, 2008

Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.
Alex putting glow sticks on branch line.

August 29 – Longline fishing for swordfish

Today’s major objective was to catch swordfish for tagging using a fishing method called longlining. Longline fishing uses one main line held just below the water’s surface with several buoys.  Attached to the main line are several smaller branch lines with hooks and bait.  The branch lines extent 42 feet or 7 fathoms into the ocean.

Preparing to launch the longline is quite a sight and it requires a number of individuals, each working in unison. There is a person who baits the hooks on the branch line then hooks it to the main line, another person attaches a glow stick (used to attract the swordfish), and a third person attaches the buoy to the main line.  There are also a number of people working behind the scenes sorting lines and working the winch. After all the branch lines are hooked to the main line, the line soaks in the water for several hours – in hopes that a swordfish will take the bait.

Crew setting gear
Crew setting gear

Reeling in the line took about two hours because the line was 4 miles long and held over 200 hooks.  I thought this was an extremely long line but was told that commercial fishing vessels use between 40 to 60 miles of line with thousands of branch lines. Wow!

Unfortunately, we were unable to tag any swordfish but hope to try again on Labor Day. What an incredible experience today has been.

August 30 and 31 – Rock’n and Roll’n

Whoa, Whoa… is about all you heard me say over the past two days.  We’re going through a rough patch today – high winds and swells up to 5 or 7 meters – between 15 and 20 feet.  We sure were glad the scientific equipment was secured during the first few days – because everything that wasn’t tied down went flying – including chairs, drinks and the crew.  The closest thing I could come to describing this experience would be like riding a non-stop Disney ride.  The inclinometer reading (an instrument that is use to detect the degrees a boat rolls) recorded a maximum tilt of about 36 degrees.   To put thing into perspective, I am now typing with one hand and holding the table with the other.  Unfortunately, many of the science projects were cancelled due to high seas.  We hope to be in the calmer waters of Monterey Bay area tomorrow.

Alex Eilers, August 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 27, 2008

Everyone! Here’s the latest from my adventures at sea.

Today the crew was busy testing equipment.  We tested both long-line fishing gear and box trawl netting!  Both

tests were successful and we are looking forward to the real thing – more to come on this subject later. The picture below shows Scott Benson holding the box trawl net “catch.”  Although it looks like group of eggs, they are actually members of the jellyfish family know as ctenophores or “comb jellies.”

Jellies
Jellies

We had a successful observation session today.  I’ll introduce you to some of the “stars” of the day.

Common Dolphins were everywhere.  We saw over 100 riding the waves on the bow of our boat.  They move with great speed – especially when you are trying to take a picture of them.

Common dolphins
Common dolphins

Risso’s Dolphins – This is an unusual looking dolphin with a rounded head – unlike the traditional dolphin we all know. These creatures have numerous scratches and scars over their body from other Risso’s and from the squid they eat.  They are gray when born and gradually become white with age.

Fin Whales – OK – I must admit – We didn’t actually see the Fin Whale but we did see the whale spouts from the three that we spotted.

Jelly Fish – We were excited to see so many Jellies – a favorite food of the Leatherback.  Most looked like “Moon Jellies” but without catching them we cannot be sure of the type since there are many species.

To Do… Research one or more of the animals highlighted above.

Alex Eilers, August 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.
In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 24, 2008

Today we were in assembly mode and I spent the majority of my time on the flying bridge (top deck). With the help of several scientists, we cleaned and replaced the viewing seats, installed the “Big Eyes” – (the largest pair of binoculars I’ve ever seen), and assembled and tested the Turtle tracking antennas.  The “Big Eyes” will be used to help track and identify marine mammals, leatherbacks and birds near the boat.  This is especially important prior to and during the times scientists have equipment in the water so we don’t catch or injure these animals. The receiver will be used to track the Leatherback Sea Turtles who have a transmitter attached to their carapace. The good news is we are receiving reports that there is a Leatherback approximately 110 miles off the coast of Monterey – the bad news is he may not be there when we arrive.

Safety training During our first true “day at sea” we had two practice safety drills; a fire in the galley (kitchen) and an abandon ship.  The crew handled both drills quickly and efficiently.  The abandon ship drill was exciting. When the bell rang, everyone was responsible for his or her own billet (job duty). My billet required me to grab my life preserver and survival suit and muster to the O1 deck (report to an area for role call).

Survival suit
Survival suit

Training to be a VO – visual observer We started the day on the flying bridge. Karin Forney, marine mammal researcher, trained us on how to be a marine animal visual observer or VO for short.  During the first observing session, we only saw a few animals – sea lions and various birds.

I’m getting fairly good at spotting kelp beds (seaweed), however, the scientists are not interested in them, so I still need more practice identifying marine mammals.

By the afternoon, we started to see more marine life.  A large pod of common dolphins swam playfully near the ship.  This was a beautiful sight to see but not ideal for net testing. We waited 30 minutes without a mammal sighting then successfully tested the nets. As the scientists were pulling the nets aboard we spotted another smaller pod of common dolphins, some California sea lions and a small mola mola (sun fish).  All in all it was a good day!

Watching for kelp
Watching for kelp

Patricia Donahue, August 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 23, 2008

 NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather

Weather on the Bridge at 14:00 
Overcast (8/8)
Visibility 11 to 27 nautical miles
Winds light and variable
Seas calm at 10˚C
Air pressure 1000.5 millibars and rising slightly
Dry Bulb 14.4˚C, Wet Bulb 11.1˚C

Science and Technology Log 

Getting a ship ready for inspection or for showing it off to the public is a busy process. All day seamen and women have been scrubbing – sometimes literally on their hands and knees – decorating, and setting up displays to make Rainier look her best. Their pride in the ship and in their work shows. The Fairweather, pictured above, is also here. She pulled in this morning along the same dock. It was amazing to watch her move toward the dock sideways! Once docked stern to stern, both ships were decorated with bunting made from signal flags. There is a flag for each letter of the alphabet and for numbers as well. A ship can identify itself by showing the signal flags for its call sign. Rainier’s call sign is WTEF. You can use this chart to draw Rainier’s call sign.

International code signals for ships
International code signals for ships

Every member of the crew was on hand for the open house.The Fairweather crew signed people in and checked their identification. Altogether, nearly 90 people toured the ships during the 2 hour open house. There were similar stations on each ship’s tour. As visitors arrived, they were taken in small groups to the bridge. After learning about the navigation and communication systems, they moved on to the Plot Room where many displays had been set up, including some marvelous computer graphics. The next tour stop was the fantail to see the small boats, then on to the diving lockers. Everyone had a chance to see a state room and finally the ward room where many brochures, books, and pamphlets were available for taking. NOAA’s Teacher At Sea book was a very popular choice! One of the visitors was a home school teacher from Texas. I think she took 2 copies! Even seasoned seamen on the tour each took a copy of the book.  

Rainier crewmembers get ready for the tours.
Rainier crewmembers get ready for the tours.

By taking the tour, I learned a few more things about the Rainier. The bridge is equipped with an infrared camera for night vision. When running at night, all of the portholes must be closed so that crewmembers on the bridge can see into the dark without light interference. Only a few “running lights” are kept on so that other vessels can see the Rainier. Another thing I learned has to do with the windows on the bridge. All but one has ordinary windshield wipers but one pane is also equipped with a clear view screen that provides a field of vision in case of heavy rain, seas, or snow. The center of the window spins very quickly like a centrifuge to dislodge water, snow, or ice. This allows the helmsman to see outside into a storm. Our guide told us that if this feature is in use, you know the weather is very bad! Lastly, I learned that the surveyors sometimes take samples of the ocean floor. They collect a small amount of material from the sea floor surface only. I was reminded of another ship called the JOIDES Resolution that drills deep into the Earth’s crust and brings up complete cores of subsurface sediment and rock. For more information about his ship, visit here.

Computer graphics like this were displayed in the the ship.
Computer graphics like this were displayed in the the ship.
A crewmember of the Rainier gives children a tour of the ship.
A crewmember of the Rainier gives children a tour of the ship.

Personal Log 

Visitors began the tour by walking up the ship’s gangway.
Visitors began the tour by walking up the ship’s gangway.

There are two aspects of life aboard the Rainier that I was impressed by. One is the conscientiousness of the crew regarding recycling. Labeled containers are available to separate the various waste streams and everyone complies. When in port, the separated recyclables are put ashore for pick up. While this may seem a small matter, it accentuates NOAA’s commitment to stewardship of the natural environment. The other item I noticed was the frequent hand washing or use of antibacterial hand cleaners. With so many people in such close quarters, stopping the spread of diseases is important. Every crewmember did their part to keep their germs to themselves. I wish my students would do the same!

The Seafarer’s Memorial at Homer Spit
The Seafarer’s Memorial at Homer Spit

I had a little extra time today so I took a walk along the famous Homer Spit and stopped at the Seafarer’s Memorial. People had brought shells, driftwood and kelp to decorate the statue. The stones of the floor were engraved with the names of sailors lost at sea. People had taped flowers to certain stones. The place had a quiet dignity.

Animals Seen Today 

There were fewer gulls at the dock than when the ship was last here. The nesting season is nearly over. Almost all of the young have fledged. The few that remain are grown, and able but unwilling to fly. An exasperated parent stood over each of these few, guarding but refusing to feed their recalcitrant offspring. Having a son that age, I understood how these birds felt!

Making Connections 

Representatives of the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory of the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research were on hand for the open house. They and other interested parties, such as the University of Alaska and the state’s fisheries and wildlife management authorities, are very excited about NOAA’s survey work. The data NOAA collects will be beneficial for identifying crab habitat and managing these and other resources to ensure their sustainability.

At the end of the tour, visitors were able to take home books, brochures, and pamphlets.
At the end of the tour, visitors were able to take home books, brochures, and pamphlets.
A NOAA employee from Kasitsna Bay Laboratory
A NOAA employee from Kasitsna Bay Laboratory

Rebecca Bell, August 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 23, 2008

Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent beneath the water.
Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent under.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1919(GMT)
Latitude: 4219.5N Longitude: 6812.5 W
Air Temp 0C: 20.7
Sea Water Temp 0C: 19.6

Science and Technology Log 

The Shrinky Cup Caper 

A trip to sea is not complete without the classic experiment on ocean depth and pressure— Styrofoam cup shrinking. Styrofoam cups are decorated with markers, and then lowered in a bag attached to the cable during a vertical cast. In our experiments, pressure is measured in decibars (dbar). This means that 1 dbar equals about 1 meter of depth. So 100 dbars = 100 meters; 1000 dbars =1000 meters. For every 10m (33ft) of water depth, the pressure increases by about 15 pounds per square inch (psi). At depth, pressure from the overlying ocean water becomes very high, but water is only slightly compressible. At a depth of 4,000 meters, water decreases in volume only by 1.8 percent. Although the high pressure at depth has only a slight effect on the water, it has a much greater effect on easily compressible materials such as Styrofoam.

Attaching the bag of cups to cable Over they go!
Attaching the cups

Styrofoam has air in it. As the cups go down, pressure forces out the air. See the results of the experiment for yourself. The depth of the cast was 200 meters or about 600 feet. (You can now calculate the total lbs of pressure on the cups). Addendum: Alison discovered that putting one of the shrunken cups down a second time resulted in an even smaller cup. The cups were sent to 200 meters again. Below right is a photo of the result of reshrinking the cup. Apparently, time has something to do with the final size as well. Resources: NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site – Explorations; Submarine Ring of Fire. AMNH Explore the Deep Oceans Lessons.

Over they go!
Over they go!

Personal Log 

There is a noticeable difference in the amount of plankton we pull in at different depths and temperatures. I can fairly well predict what we will net based on the depth and temperature at a sample site. I’ve also noticed that the presence of sea birds means to start looking for whales and dolphins. I assume that where there is a lot of plankton (food) there are more fish and other lunch menu items for birds and dolphins. A high population of plankton means we are more likely to see more kinds of larger animals.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Krill
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphins
  • Terns
  • Minke whales
  • Pilot whales
  • Mola mola (4)
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right, the original size
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right,
the original size

Patricia Donahue, August 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 22, 2008

One of the Rainier’s small boats, also called a launch
One of the Rainier’s small boats, also called a launch

Science and Technology Log 

Much of today had to do with technology. The small boat I went out on, pictured to the right, was filled with computer equipment. Each day at the survey technology department meetings, I’ve listened but not entirely understood the reports of computer issues on the small boats.  This morning I witnessed one such incident. Something didn’t work. Fortunately, there was a work-around and the data collection proceeded smoothly.

I was reminded of the early 18th century efforts to determine longitude. The problem was so pressing that kings of various countries offered rewards for the development of a clock that could keep time at sea. In 1772, James Cook, for whom Cook Inlet in Alaska is named, sailed with the first marine chronometer. The chronometer was a clock that kept accurate time for the home port. On board Cook’s ship, Resolution, there was another clock that kept local time.

Sonar equipment is lowered into the water.
Sonar equipment is lowered into the water.

Since the Earth turns 15 degrees of longitude each hour, by using the difference between the two clocks, seamen would know how far east or west they had traveled. They already knew how to determine latitude with an instrument called a sextant so by using the marine chronometer they could actually plot their coordinates. Now, of course, we take GPS for granted. Many people even have GPS in their cars. These devices and the hand held ones I use with my students at school are accurate to within 4 to 10 meters. Well, the boat I was on today has DGPS, which is even better. It is accurate to within 5 centimeters! With this high-tech equipment, NOAA is able to take very accurate measurements and make very accurate maps.

This graph depicts the velocity of sound through water.
This graph depicts the velocity of sound through water.

The boat I was on today used multi-beam sonar to determine the depth of the ocean floor. This is similar in concept to the single beam in that ping return-times are used. The multi-beam uses a lot more pings, sometimes as many as 200 per second. In the picture above, the sonar equipment is being lowered into the ocean. I learned that salinity, temperature and depth (which is another way of saying pressure) determine the electrical conductivity and density of the water. These two factors then determine the sound velocity.  In the graph, depth is on the Y axis and velocity is on the X axis. Notice the bulge in the plotted line. This represents an area nearer the surface where glacial melt water and ocean water are mixing. The velocity of sound through this water is slower than deeper down where it’s mostly salt water.

This graph displays the pitch, roll, and heave of the boat.
This graph displays the pitch, roll, and heave of the boat.

Measurements of salinity, temperature, electrical conductivity, depth and density were taken 27 times today. This data will be used to adjust the sound velocity to get the most accurate picture of the ocean bottom. The movement of the boat also has an effect on the sonar equipment. NOAA is using the moving vessel profiler or MVP to eliminate the interference caused by the boat’s movement. A boat has a pitch, roll and heave. The computer screen to the left shows graphs of these three types of movement. What do you think was happening on the boat at about halfway across the graph? Remember, the boat is “mowing the lawn” as it collects data. Lastly, the tides also affect the data. Upon return to Rainier, the data is processed and also corrected for the effect of the tides.

TAS Donahue gets a chance to drive the launch.
TAS Donahue gets a chance to drive the launch.

Personal Log 

Several crewmembers have tried fishing from the boat and we’ve seen many small boats with fishermen aboard but no one has caught anything. Using the binoculars aboard the small boat today I watched someone land a fish. I think it was a halibut, which makes sense since we’re in Halibut Cove. The most exciting part of the day was driving the small boat. Data was not collected from a small piece of sea bottom so the boat had to make one last pass over it with the sonar equipment. I’ve driven many different vehicles, even a motorcycle, but a boat is different. I couldn’t make it stay straight!

The scariest thing that happened today didn’t happen to us at all. The United States Coast Guard broadcast a message all afternoon over the marine radio. The message would also start with “pan, pan, pan,” which is the appropriate way to begin a distress call. Most of us have heard of “may day” calls. Those are used when there is immediate danger. A “pan” call is more similar to a warning. A boat carrying two adults and one child had not returned as expected and was missing. The Coast Guard was asking all other boaters to keep an eye out for them. I hope they’ve been found and that everyone is okay.

Animals Seen Today 

A raft of otters, Common Murres, Marbled Murrelets, and Barrow’s Goldeneye

Vocabulary of the Day 

The coxswain is the person who drives the boat.

Challenge Yourself What is 5 cm in inches? What types of movements are pitch, roll and heave?

 

Rebecca Bell, August 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4224.2 N Longitude: 6659.1 W
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 202m

Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!
Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a buoy! Today has been busy—a vertical cast, baby bongos and the big bongos. But let me tell you about the other things. First of all, Alison and I deployed my very own buoy. NOAA has an Adopt-A-Drifter (buoy) program. Jerry Prezioso, our Chief Scientist, thoughtfully signed me up for it before we sailed. We deployed it today at George’s Bank, the deepest station we will reach.

The deployment consisted of picking up the basketball-sized buoy and throwing it over the side. There is a transmitter in the black float which will allow us to track the buoy’s motion for years. NOAA uses these buoys to assemble weather reports, monitor climate changes, etc. The buoy consists of the round ball with the transmitter and a “drogue” a long “tube” of cloth that fills with water. The purpose of the tube is to make sure it is the ocean current that moves the buoy, not wind.

With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean
With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean

There is a diagram on the Adopt-A-Drifter site. The ball and drogue (sounds like an English pub) are attached to a metal ring which anchors the drogue and the ball. Here I am with the MSDE-decorated buoy. You can barely see the metal ring. The drogue is the green thing, folded up. You throw the whole thing overboard. The paper and tape dissolve and the drogue unfurls. It has to be kept tied up so you don’t go overboard with the drifter.  NOAA’s Office of Climate Observation sponsors the “Adopt-A- Drifter” program.  According to the Web site: “The “Adopt-A- Drifter” program (allows you to access) information about drifting buoys (drifters) that move with the ocean currents around the globe. The drifter floats in the ocean water and is powered by batteries located in the dome. The drifter data that are collected, including location with a GPS, are sent to a satellite and then to a land station where everyone can access the data.

And off it goes on its long journey
And off it goes on its long journey

Drifters are continually being deployed from ships around the world. They last for a number of years unless they collide with something like an island in the middle of the ocean or a continent. Each drifter receives aWMO ID # (World Meteorological Organization Identification Number) so the data can be archived. The purpose of the drifters is to gather the information necessary for countries to: 1) forecast and assess climate variability and change, and 2) effectively plan for and manage response to climate change.”

This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge
This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge

We will release it in George’s Basin at 4224.2 N latitude; 6659.1 W longitude. This is an interesting area because of the way currents converge near this site.  Above is a map of the area.  Below it is a diagram showing the major currents.

A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II
A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II

As you can see, the buoy was deployed where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current encounter each other. There is a chance that the buoy will travel into the Gulf Stream or through the Northeast Channel into the North Atlantic Current. It might also just stay within the basin, caught in the large gyre within the Basin. You can get on-line and track the buoy to see what happens to it.

More from the Web site:

“The Adopt-A- Drifter program provides an opportunity for teachers to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. An educational sticker from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and teachers and their students access sea surface temperature and/or sea surface pressure data from the drifter online. Students plot the coordinates of the drifter on a tracking chart as it moves freely across the ocean and make connections between the data accessed on line and other maps showing ocean currents and winds. Drifter data are used to track major ocean currents and eddies globally, ground truth data from satellites, build models of climate and weather patterns and predict the movement of pollutants if dumped or accidentally spilled into the sea. It is important for teachers and students to understand how the data are measured, how often data are downloaded, and what data are available for schools and the general public to access.”

Source: Modified from Follow the world’s ocean currents with NOAA’s Adopt a Drifter Program 

Stanitski, D.M.; Hammond, J. OCEANS, 2005. Proceedings of MTS/IEEE

Personal Log 

As we move further north, our nets started pulling in krill. I hoped that whales were not far behind. I was not disappointed. Yesterday we encountered dolphins on three separate occasions. One group came very near the ship and I have some good video of them “porpoising” through the waves. We also spotted a whale spout, but I could not see the whale. Later in the day, during our safety drill, I was looking out to sea just as a pilot whale leaped straight into the air. We were able to see that there were a number of these whales feeding in that area. Towards afternoon, we saw a group of Minke whales. In late afternoon, another spout was spotted and we saw a huge tail disappear under the water- probably a humpback whale.

For More Information 

NOAA’s Adopt-A- Drifter Program

NOAA Lesson plans: Ocean Currents

Climate Observation System

Ocean Explorer related lesson: Islands in the Stream- How geologic feature(s) in the structure of the ocean floor may cause an eddy to form in the current above it

NOAA National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service Lesson on the dynamics of the ocean using satellite data; Investigating the Gulf Stream 

NASA Lesson: Global Winds

Climate and Weather Animations Educypedia

NOAA Office of Climate Observation

NOAA Buoy and Drifter Oceanography 

Patricia Donahue, August 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge at 1000 hours 
Broken clouds (7/8)
Visibility 11 to 27 nautical miles
Winds calm
Seas 0-1 ft (light breeze) at 9.4˚C
Air pressure 1001.5 millibars and rising slightly
Dry Bulb 12.2˚C, Wet Bulb 11.1˚C
Cumulus clouds between 3000 and 5000 feet

The lines circled in red are the track that the boat follows back and forth in order scan the bottom of the sea. It’s a lot like mowing a lawn!
The track that the boat follows back and forth in order scan the bottom of the sea. It’s a lot like mowing a lawn!

Science and Technology Log 

We are anchored in Halibut Cove near a large lagoon too shallow even for the small boats to enter. The nearby mountains have attracted my attention. According to the chart for this area, the two seen off the bow are both 3600 feet high. They have some patches of snow on them. A taller mountain, 4200 feet high, is barely visible in the distance. Nearer the shore some cliffs show evidence of an interesting geological history. Once upon a time, marine sediments collected at the bottom of the sea. The layers built steadily one atop the other, creating organic and clastic sedimentary rocks. The rocks were uplifted to nearly vertical and have eroded. The lighter colored section appears to be limestone but it’s difficult to tell from afar. Due to intense tectonic activity in the area, some of the rock was heated and crushed, causing metamorphism. The section next to what I think is limestone looks to be either a metamorphosed limestone or a batholith. I’m hopeful that someone on board knows more geology than I do!

One of these scans shows a school of fish and the other shows a mound on the sea floor.  Can you guess which is which? (Answer: the scan on the left is a mound on the sea floor and the scan on the right is a school of fish.)
One of these scans shows a school of fish and the other shows a mound on the sea floor. Can you guess which is which?

Today I went out on one of the small vessels conducting single beam sonar scanning to determine the depth and shape of the bay bottom. The boat moves across the surface of the sea in straight, parallel lines much like the ones made when cutting the grass with a lawn mower. The lines in the first picture are the rows that the boat “mows.” The sonar pings go down from the bottom of the boat at a rate of 100 per second! The equipment on board measures how much time passes until the ping returns from the bottom. The longer it takes for the sound signal to bounce back, the deeper the water is in that location. The boat also has another scanner similar to what fishermen use to find schools of fish. Look at these two photographs from the scanner. Which is a school of fish and which is a 27 foot high mound on the ocean floor? The depth of the water is in large numbers in the lower left. The numbers farthest to the right are the ocean temperatures. Why is the water colder where the bottom is deeper?

This is a sea otter feasting on a clam! The tiny white spec on its belly is the clam
This is a sea otter feasting on a clam! The tiny white spec on its belly is the clam

Personal Log 

The screen above with the “mowing the lawn” lines on it clearly shows an airplane making its way back and forth. Of course I had to ask, “Why an airplane icon”? I thought they’d tell me that it was for laughs but no, there is a good reason. The airplane icon’s nose keeps in sync with the GPS and the lines better than the ship icon! The surveyors find it easier to know their position.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Many sea otters – Look closely at the picture to the left. The otter in the picture is eating clam. A shell is balanced on its belly!
  • Schools of fish under the boat “seen” by the radar
  • Several types of birds too far away to identify

Vocabulary of the Day 

While inputting the weather this morning, I noticed several screens that we did not add data to and rather than skip them, I decided to see what they were about. They were about ice conditions that a ship might encounter and include in a weather report. Here are two new words I didn’t have for ice. A bergy bit is a large piece of floating glacier ice between 100 and 300 square meters in area and showing less than 5 meters but more than 1 meter above sea level. A growler is smaller than a bergy bit. It is larger than 20 square meters in area but less than 1 meter is above the sea surface. Growlers can be transparent, green, or even black in appearance. Since its summer in Alaska, I won’t be seeing any bergy bits or growlers! I also learned that the term iceberg has a precise definition. An iceberg is a piece of ice afloat or aground that shows more than 5 meters above the sea surface. They are described more specifically by their shape.

Challenge Yourself 

Kachemak Bay receives a lot of glacial melt water. Surveyors have a difficult time with the radar equipment when they encounter freshwater because the sound waves travel at a different speed through fresh water than they do through salt water. In which type of water, salt or fresh, does sound travel faster? Why?

Alex Eilers, August 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 21, 2008

Well I’ve arrived in San Diego safe and sound.  The weather here is fantastic – warm, mostly sunny and a bit breezy.  Let’s hope it stays like his throughout my time at sea.  Here is a brief outline of how I’ve been preparing for the research cruise.  I started the day at a LUTH survey orientation meeting.  LUTH stands for Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitat. Lisa Ballance, the director of Protected Resources Division and Scott Benson, Chief Scientist welcomed the entire team.  We spent the morning listening to the research planned for the trip and I was amazed at the amount of science to be conducted.  This is going to be an exciting adventure. I must admit though – I’ve got some homework to do.  I have to become more familiar with the acronyms the scientists are using, like CTD’s, TSG’s and especially XBT’s – because I have to load these this afternoon.

After lunch we piled in the vans and headed toward the ship to begin the loading process.  My assignment was to load and store the XBT’s and help load the oceanographic equipment.  And, I did my homework – I found out that the XBT stands for eXpendable BathyThermograph and they are used for the collection of oceanographic temperature data.

I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture.  I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning.  Better get busy – more to come later.  Keep checking the website.
I took a quick break after unloading the van to pose for a picture. I’m standing beside NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan and the real work is now beginning. Better get busy – more to come later.

Patricia Donahue, August 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 20, 2008

Weather Data – Glorious!

Science and Technology Log 

black bear comes to inspect what the land party is up to!
A black bear comes to inspect what the land party is up to!

WOW! That says it all. Today’s big excitement was supposed to be the leveling of the tidal gauge and the survey work in the cove. The bigger thrill – and scare – was the bear that approached to within 30 feet of me as I was standing over a benchmark with a leveling rod. Remembering the safety rules about bears, I stayed calm and alerted the others. Then I put down the pole and walked away slowly. Fortunately it was a young and smallish black bear who was easily scared off by the Commander throwing rocks. We were all on our guard the rest of the day. There were several benchmarks to check. Some of the climbing was perilous. All of the work had to be done at low tide. The survey data was collected and I look forward to seeing what’s done with it.

During the afternoon, another emergency drill took place and I was invited to watch. In the scenario, the bridge lost the ability to steer the ship. Control of the vessel had to be made from aft steering, below decks where the rudders protrude from the vessel. By using only a compass and steering orders given in degrees, the helmsman maneuvered the ship. There were no windows or other indicators of the ship’s position. To make matters worse, the scenario called for a loss of communications so a sound powered phone that uses only the energy from the speaker’s voice to operate had to be used instead.

A benchmark on the Alaskan coastline
A benchmark on the Alaskan coastline

By late afternoon the ship moved to its new anchorage a few miles from Homer. I was invited to watch the lowering of the anchor. The anchor weighs 3500 pounds and there are two of them. Each length of chain weighs 1200 pounds and there are a total of 12 lengths for each anchor. Today we used only 5 sections of chain and 1 anchor. Each section of chain is 90 feet (15 fathoms) long. The anchor is lowered while the ship is in reverse.

Personal Log 

My family and my students enjoy a game called geocaching. We’ve started by using hand held GPS devices to find benchmarks and eventually we’ll move on to finding caches and creating our own. I’ve only ever seen old benchmarks but today I saw brand new ones. One of the officers even showed me how they’re made. Benchmarks indicate the exact location and height above sea level of that particular place. The Chief Steward took me to see the food storage facilities. The freezer is enormous! The ship carries enough food to last for 6 months, although the fresh fruits and vegetables only last for one month. They have more food than CostCo!

Animals Seen Today 

Stellar’s Jay, Black Bear, and two species of Jelly Fish

Question of the Day 

How long is the anchor chain on the Rainier? Provide your answer in feet and fathoms. How much do the anchors and the chain weigh altogether? Why is the boat in reverse when the anchor is dropped?

Challenge Yourself 

Go to http://www.geocaching.com and type in your zip code. Identify a benchmark near your home. Find it and take a photograph!

Patricia Donahue, August 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge at 1600 hours 
Broken clouds (5/8)
Visibility 11 to 27 nautical miles
Winds 230˚ at 6 knots
Seas 0-1 ft (light breeze) at 8.3˚C
Air pressure 1003.5 millibars and falling slightly
Dry Bulb 13.1˚C, Wet Bulb 12˚C
Cumulus and cirrus clouds between 2000 and 3300 feet

Science and Technology Log 

Today I recorded the temperature twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The data is written on a sheet and then entered into a specialized computer program. Once saved, the floppy containing the data is placed in a transmitter for delivery via satellite to the National Weather Service. There are few weather stations in the area so the ship is acting as one! The information will then show up on maps as a station model such as the one shown above. My students learn how to code and decode these models and it was awesome to see where the data comes from and how it is delivered.

This is a weather map symbol that shows wind direction (the arm extending from the circle) from the southwest; wind speed (the smaller arm) at 6 knots; temperature at 13.1˚C; dew point and 12˚C; pressure at 1003.5 mb; and cloud cover which is indicated by the shaded circle and shows broken clouds, meaning partly cloudy.
This is a weather map symbol that shows wind direction (the arm extending from the circle) from the southwest; wind speed (the smaller arm) at 6 knots; temperature at 13.1˚C; dew point and 12˚C; pressure at 1003.5 mb; and cloud cover which is indicated by the shaded circle and shows broken clouds, meaning partly cloudy.

Yesterday and today I also made note of true north and magnetic north. The difference between them was 17 degrees yesterday and 16 degrees today. In Texas a few weeks ago this difference was about 12 degrees. The officer on the bridge told me that there is a lot of interference that accounts for the larger difference here. I was reminded of what I’ve recently learned about the polarity reversals the Earth has undergone throughout its history. According to scientists, the planet is entering a period in which true north and magnetic north will deviate more and more from one another. I read a book I found in the wardroom about the geology of Alaska and discovered that the area we’re in now is mainly sedimentary rock. Through the “big eyes” on the flying bridge I can see a lot of stratification in the rocks. 

NOAA Ship Rainier
NOAA Ship Rainier

One of the engineers showed me the engine room. I was able to see the freshwater generator system that makes potable water for the ship. Salt water is “flashed” to its boiling point but not 100 degrees Celsius! This evaporation is done at a very low pressure by creating a vacuum of more than 90% so the boiling point of the water is much lower. This saves energy. The water evaporates, leaving behind the salts and other minerals dissolved in it. The water vapor is condensed and stored in a tank for use by the crew. One of the evaporators can make about 130 gallons of water in an hour and the ship has two of them. (If the water intake is not as salty, such as where we are now due to the glacial melt water, then more water can be generated.) There are also two storage tanks, each holding 8,400 gallons for a total of nearly 17,000 gallons.

The ship uses between 2000 and 3000 gallons per day so the amount stored could last for 5 days if necessary. There are only 53 people aboard. I did the math and realized that the crew is using a lot less water than I thought. Generally, an estimate of water use is 150 gallons per person per day. Not only is the crew careful about water use, some salt water replaces freshwater. For example, the toilets use salt water. Another interesting thing about the evaporators is that they use titanium plates. Titanium is very, very expensive! Back home people are stealing catalytic converters out of cars to recover the titanium in them! Since I teach the gas laws, distillation, and the periodic table, I plan to include a lesson about the evaporators.

Personal Log 

Today’s big events were a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. Fortunately I’ve gotten to know the ship fairly well and I was able to get to my assigned muster station in a timely fashion. The newly arrived personnel, myself included, also watched survival videos. Extra survival equipment had to be put away and I volunteered to help. I was able to climb down through hatches into the area where dry goods are stored. I wonder if they’ll let me climb the mast? My fears about seasickness have not been realized due to the fact that we are in very calm water. The bay seems more like a lake! From the ship I can see the Dixon Glacier and the Portlock Glacier. I’m sure they are a lot farther away than they appear! The survey team that went out today reported difficulties in the areas where the glacial runoff enters the bay. I hope I get to go out tomorrow.

Animals Seen Today 

Bald Eagle, Otter

Question of the Day 

How much fresh water is each person aboard the Rainier using in one day?

Challenge Yourself 

Use the internet to find out how many people are aboard a large cruise ship or a large naval vessel. Calculate how many gallons of water they would use. How many freshwater generators would the ship need? How much water would the cruise ship have to store to last for 5 days? Using the station model above, can you determine the relative humidity?

Rebecca Bell, August 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4000.7 N Longitude: 6931.5
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 114m

The Delaware’slatest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank
The Delaware’s latest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank

Science and Technology Log 

We are heading east out to sea, right now at 4005 N latitude, 6942 W longitude. (Pull out those atlases). We will begin a turn north towards Georges Bank. Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Georges Bank is (was) one of the most productive North Atlantic fisheries (Grand Banks being the most productive). “Legend has it that the first European sailors found cod so abundant that they could be scooped out of the water in baskets. Until the last decades of this century these banks were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds… (Source: AMNH web site below).

This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.
This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.

Northeastern fishery landings are valued at approximately $800 million dockside, of which a large proportion is produced on Georges Bank. Recently, scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have undertaken an effort to document direct interactions between physical environmental factors and the abundance and distribution of fishery species. (Source: USGS below). This means that the water chemistry, temperature and other factors affect how many fish there are, how many kinds of fish there are, and where they are. The article from USGS explains that the sea floor sediments that form Georges Bank came from the time when glaciers scoured the area. Since that time, sea level has risen, covering the glacial sediments, and tides and currents are eroding the bottom. When this erosion happens, small sediment particles are winnowed out by tides and currents leaving larger gravel-sized sediments on the floor. This kind of surface is good for scallop larvae and other small animals so they can settle on the bottom and not get buried by sand. Thus, the type of sediment on the ocean floor helps determine what kinds of animals can live there.

This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Interestingly enough, politics and international relations have affected our trip to Georges Bank. We have been waiting for clearance through the U.S. State Department working with the Canadian government, to get permission to go into Canadian waters. As Wikipedia explains below, part of Georges Bank is “owned” by the U.S. and part is “owned” by Canada. Our route is to take us through the eastern part of Georges Bank, the part owned by Canada. Unfortunately, due to the speed of processing the request, we just this morning found out we got clearance to go there. If the request had been denied, we would have had to sail around the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to avoid Canadian waters. Fortunately, we are now good to go.

From Wikipedia: 

“During the 1960s and 1970s, oil exploration companies determined that the seafloor beneath Georges Bank possesses untold petroleum reserves. However, both Canada and the United States agreed to a moratorium on exploration and production activities in lieu of conservation of its waters for the fisheries.

The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each respective nation. In recognition of the controversy, both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 NM limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada’s portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.”

American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/biobulletin/biobulletin/story1208.html (easy to medium to read)

USGS http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/georges-bank/ (more difficult to read) The map above is also from the USGS website.

Personal Log 

It’s been a very quiet day today. We had several station samples this morning. At the first one, around 6:30 a.m. one of the crew members spotted two whales. They were too far away to see what kind they were. I, unfortunately, was inside the ship at that time and missed it. However, we are heading north so maybe we will have a chance to see some.

Rebecca Bell, August 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   1807 (GMT)
Latitude:  36.05.40 N Longitude: 75.24.30 W
Air Temp 0C: 25.3 0C
Sea Water Temp:  26.7 0C

On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods
On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods

Science and Technology Log 

The most common zooplankton we have seen so far are salps, amphipods, arrow worms and copepods. Pteropods (sea butterfly) have been in a number of samples but are not numerous. Salps look like clear, jelly-like marbles. We’ve encountered these animals in warm, shallow water. They are holoplanktonic relatives of sea squirts (Urochordata). Salps are filter feeders, using cilia to move suspended particles from the water. They feed by pumping water through a sieve to remove bacteria and nanoplankton, and are thus, a very important link in the food chain. Some species of salps form huge chains by budding. They show both sexual and asexual life stages. For more about salps and photos see this website.

Amphipods are also extremely common crustaceans. There is no carapace (shell-like covering), but their bodies are flattened side-to-side, much like a shrimp.  Their bodies are segmented with 6 segments in the head, 8 in the thorax and 6 in the abdomen.1 They have a brood pouch on their thoracic limbs. They have a variety of limbs used for feeding, crawling or jumping. One group lives off a host, feeding on salp tissues. Some types live in tubes; others use their back legs to anchor themselves while they sway to and fro in the water column. Some species swim rapidly while others stay near the bottom of the ocean. Many will move vertically in the water column, moving near the surface during the day, and sinking again at night. The species we are catching has large compound eyes that can be seen by the naked eye. For more about amphipods, visit this website. 

Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.
Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.

Copepods are very common crustaceans, with more than 200 species and 10,000 families. 2 We have found more of these than any other organism. Copepods are omnivorous. Some groups graze on microplankton; other groups of copepods prey on larger plankton, including other copepods. They are an important link in the food chain as well, moving carbon from a microscopic level to a larger trophic (feeding) level. They are eaten by jellyfish, fish, comb jellies and arrow worms. Copepods have “antennae” that have special sensors that detect water movement around them. They are able to move toward prey by contracting a muscle that runs in a circle around their bodies. For more about copepods, visit this website.

Arrow worms (Chaetognatha) are common along coasts, but we did not catch any out away from shore. Arrow worms are classified in their own group, distinct from Annelids (earthworms), round worms and flatworms, which are all separate groups of worms. They are predators, often waiting to ambush their prey. When their cilia detect prey, usually copepods, the arrow worm contracts 2 muscles that run dorsally and ventrally (top to bottom) to strike. Their mouths have spines that grab the prey and smaller “teeth” produce a venom that subdues the prey. The prey is swallowed whole. Arrow worms, in turn, are eaten by jellyfish, copepods and fish.

Sea Butterflies were not common, but they are very interesting. Sea butterflies (pteropods) are holoplanktonic mollusks, related to snails. Basically, they are shell-less snails. Their foot is modified into winglike structures (ptero= winged) that they flap as they swim through the water. Their bodies are tube-shaped and clear. The bodies and wings of the species we have seen are an orange-pink color. They are predators and are preyed upon by fish, sea birds and whales.

References: 

Information for these paragraphs were modified and combined from the following sources: 1 Newell, G.E. and Newell, R.C.; Marine Plankton: A Practical Guide; 5th edition; 1977; Hutchinson & Co; London.2 Johnson, William S. and Allen, Dennis M.; Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: A Guide to Their Identification and Ecology; 2005; Johns Hopkins University Press.

Personal Log 

This morning we saw dark clouds in the distance. You could see rain falling from the clouds. Nearby we could see the tail of a water spout disappearing into the clouds.  We sampled our southern-most station and are now heading north along the coast just south of Chesapeake Bay. The samples we are pulling now have a lot of diatoms.

Rebecca Bell, August 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude:  3846.7 Longitude: 7302.1
Temp 25.4 C

Bongo net
Bongo net

Science and Technology Log 

In the last post, I explained WHY we are collecting zooplankton. This post will illustrate HOW the samples are taken.

The samples are collected using a device called a bongo net (Yes, like the musical instrument).  You can see the metal rings and the nets hang from the metal rings. One net is marked with red and the other green. This allows you to tell the two nets apart. The samples from the red side will be used for the ichthyoplankton study. The samples from the green side will be used for the zooplankton study.

The white device is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth). You attach it to the bongo net frame and turn it on. The CTD takes measurements on the way into the water and on the way out of the water. When the bridge clears you, the computer operator (inside) tells the hydraulics operator to start letting out the line and at what speed to let it out and bring it in. You calculate the amount of time in and out using a chart that is based on changing depth. You have to calculate it so you get at least a 5-minute tow.

The CTD
The CTD

Now the bongo nets are raised on the A-frame. You can see the CTD above the bongos (right picture) and there is a lead weight beneath and between the nets. Next, the A-frame moves the nets over the side of the ship and they are lowered into the water. You cruise for at least 5 minutes. The idea is to get within 5 meters of the bottom, then start bringing the nets back in. The computer operator keeps track of where the bottom is. The idea is to stop the line going out in time so the nets don’t hit the bottom and pull up a bunch of sand. Then you just have to wait for the tow, and eventually for the nets to come back up.

The bongos are removed from the A-frame and brought into the wet lab. You use the hose to wash the plankton down to the bottom of the net. The bottom of the net is put into the sieve. When the net is hosed down to the sieve end, you untie the bottom of the net and let the plankton wash into the sieves. The mesh captures zooplankton, but lets smaller phytoplankton through. Finally you rinse the plankton from the sieves into a jar with 5% formalin for preservation. A label is put into the jar as well as on top of the jar, stating station number, date and time.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.

Personal Log 

We had a fire drill and an “abandon ship” safety drill. In the picture to the right, I am wearing a survival suit, lovingly known as a “Gumby suit”. If you abandon ship, you have to run to the deck and put on this suit. It is one piece, with inflatable neck rest, whistle and flashing pocket light so you can be spotted. You have to lay the suit out on deck, and sit down in it. Feet go in first, then you stand up and pull the rest over your head, find the arms etc. Look at the look on my face. Not too sure about this! The front flap closes to show only your eyes–on me a little higher. You should try zipping the front zipper with thick rubber gloves that are too big for you. It reminds me of the astronauts trying to fix the space station. I have a new appreciation for how difficult it is too, like, HOLD anything. The best news yet–we get to practice next week again.

Deploying the Bongo net
Deploying the Bongo net
The A-frame
The A-frame
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
Becky waits for the nets to come back up after the tow
Waiting for the nets to come back up after the tow
Becky rinsing down the net
Becky rinsing down the net
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for preservation
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for
preservation
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.

 

Rebecca Bell, August 14, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 14, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   134628 (GMT)
Latitude:  40.33.06N Longitude: 72.47.36W
Air Temp 0C: 22.1
Sea Water Temp:  22.3 0C

NOAA Ship Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Science and Technology Log 

We sailed from Woods Hole, MA on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 on the first of three legs as part of the Ecosystem Monitoring Program. There are two main objectives of the cruise. The first is to see how well the fish population is doing by sampling and counting fish larvae. The number of fish is important to the fisheries industry- those folks who bring cod and other fish to your table. The second objective is to monitor the zooplankton population. Fish feed on the zooplankton, so a healthy zooplankton population may mean a healthier fish population. We also are monitoring the physical properties of the water; in this case, salinity and temperature. These influence where fish larvae and zooplankton can survive and where and how far they can be dispersed.

There are 125-130 sites randomly selected for sampling. At each site, a pair of bongo nets are dropped and the two samples are collected side-by-side, for a total of 250-260 samples. One sample is designated for the ichthyoplankton (fish larvae) study, and the other for the study of zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. Near-surface along-track chlorophyll-a fluorescence, which indicates abundance of phytoplankton (i.e. food for the zooplankton), water temperature and salinity are constantly measured with the vessel’s flow-through sampling system. We will also be collecting a separate set of samples as we approach the Chesapeake Bay. These will be used to study aging of fish larvae.

Zooplankton include both unicellular and multicellular organisms. Many can easily be seen with the naked eye. Zooplankton can be classified in a number of ways. One way is to classify them by life history. Holoplankton are those that are planktonic during their entire life cycle (lifers). Meroplankton refers to those plankton in a developmental stage, like eggs and larvae (shorttimers). These larvae will grow into larger organisms such as jellyfish, mollusks, fish, starfish and sea urchins, crustaceans, copepods and amphipods.

The term “plankton” comes from a Greek word for “wanderer” or “drifter”.1 This may imply that these organisms are passively moved about by currents. However, many can power around on their own, using several different methods such as cilia, muscle contraction, or appendages on the head, thorax or abdomen. They also move vertically in the water column, up toward sunlight during daylight hours and downward at night. Krill (whale food), on the other hand, do the opposite- travel downward during the day and up at night.

The first two samples contained a vast number of salps. A salp is holoplanktonic and is related to sea squirts (urochordates). They are filter feeders, catching bacteria and extremely small plankton in mucous-covered “nets” that act as sieves. Salps are an important part of the ocean food chain.

Samples 3-5 show a greater variety of organisms- comb jellies (ctenophores), arrow worms (Chaetognatha) fish larvae and amphipods. Samples 6-8 are dominated by copepods. There are salps, too, but not nearly as many (about 1/3 fewer) as we saw in the first 2 samples.

So I am looking at these results and wondering: Are there patterns to the distribution of these assemblages? Are salps found in warm water or cooler water?  Does temperature matter at all? Do they like deeper water?  Higher or lower salinity? Combinations of any of these? Are they found where another organism is found?

Personal Log 

We began our first work shift today, er, last night, um, this morning at 3 a.m. I work the 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. That means to bed around 7pm., rise and shine at 2:30 a.m. Well, rise, anyway. Not much shining till later.

As I sat on the deck in darkness, waiting to reach our first sample site, I spotted the light from another ship on the horizon. I watched as the light traveled up a wave, then down a wave then up, up, up, up, still up. I could not believe how high it was going, knowing we were doing the same thing. It’s a good thing it doesn’t feel like that. We are now heading south, back towards the Chesapeake Bay. It is getting hotter and muggier, just like home.

We saw dolphins today. A large leatherback turtle was spotted from the bridge. The 3pm- 3am. shift reported seeing flying fish.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Sea butterfly
  • Dolphins
  • Gulls (4 species)

1 Source: Online Etymology Dictionarywww.etymologyonline.com.

Lisa Hjelm, August 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 12, 2008

Chief Boatswain outlining the day’s work to crewmember
Chief Boatswain outlining the day’s work to crewmember

Science and Technology Log 6: Looking Ahead 

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ships were tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crews the data could be lost. 

We’re into our last two work days before Rainier begins the transit back to Homer, AK. The weather has indeed changed. The skies are shifting, shades of gray, and this afternoon the winds may kick up to 15 knots. Spits of rain hit your face when you venture on deck. It could be a rough day on the launches. A few people picked up seasickness medication on the way to the morning meeting on the fantail. After fifteen days of work the faces of the crew of the Rainier are taking on determined, tired looks.  These are the final days of the 2008 season in the Pavlof Island area.

Even with an end in sight no one is gearing down. There is still plenty to do. The crew is preparing the ship for an upcoming inspection and an open house during “Hydrapalooza”, a gathering of hydrographers in Homer, AK. The officers are preparing for the 36-hour return transit. The survey technicians are putting finishing touches on their final survey sheets and reports for this area. There is activity and some excitement everywhere. Perhaps due to the extended period of fine weather, work is ahead of schedule. Today, the launches are surveying a new sheet that wasn’t scheduled until 2009. They’ve named this one SNOW: white uncharted territory.

Okeanos Explorer, image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration
Okeanos Explorer, image: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

After three days working evenings on Night Processing, I am still learning the procedure. There are many steps involved in processing the sonar data. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on SNOW data. It was exciting to be the first person to see the bathymetry of uncharted seafloor. It is amazing to think that only 1% of the world’s oceans have been mapped. The future for aspiring hydrographers looks bright. And that brings me to the topic of my final Teacher at Sea Science log: what’s in store for the future. Talking with the crew, observing and listening to stories, two projects that people on the Rainier are or will be involved with captured my interest: Okeanus Explorer and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, (AUVs).

In 2008, NOAA will commission an ocean exploration ship, Okeanos Explorer. It’s currently in Seattle, WA which is, coincidentally, the homeport of the Rainier. Rainier’s Chief Steward suggested that I read about the Okeanos Explorer because it has an interesting educational mission. That seemed like a great idea, and I discovered that the Chief Boatswain from the Rainier will be moving to the Okeanos Explorer when it is deployed. So, I looked it up at, “Okeanos Explorer: A New Paradigm for Exploration”, where I found the following information. The Okeanos Explorer will be dedicated to exploring the world’s oceans with a threefold mission: deep water mapping; science class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations; and real-time ship to shore transmission of data. Scientists, educators, students and the Chief Boatswain from the Rainier will be participants in ocean exploration in much the same way that I was part of project SNOW (see above).

AUV PUMA
AUV PUMA

Through ship personnel there is also a connection between NOAA Ship Rainier and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Recently, I talked with a visiting Survey Technician who was programming as he spoke. The keyboard seemed an extension of his fingers. His regular job in Silver Spring, MD turned out to be in research for developing and improving AUVs. AUVs are unmanned, underwater robots that can use their sensors to detect underwater mines, objects of archaeological interest or for mapping the seafloor. This was fascinating to me, and I asked many questions.  Last summer, 2007, I had followed the day-by- day log of the Icebreaker Odin in the eastern Arctic Ocean. On this expedition two AUVs, named PUMA and Jaguar, were used to explore and map below the ice on the Gakkel Ridge. In part their mission was to search for hydrothermal plumes or vents. AUVs and their potential are probably as interesting to ocean explorers as the Mars Rover is to NASA scientists. I found out more about NOAA’s role in exploration with AUVs at “AUVfest 2008: Navy Mine-Hunting Robots help NOAA Explore Sunken History”.  

Personal Log 6: Back on the Bridge, Headed Home 

An AUV demonstrates its ability to sense and respond to its surroundings.
An AUV can sense and respond to its surroundings.

As we transit from the survey area to Homer, AK, I have time to reflect on what I will take away from this experience. Again, I am pleasantly interrupted by trips to the Bridge to look at whale spouts and the endless display of volcanic mountains, islands and sea. We’ve made a stop en route for the anglers aboard, and I periodically race back to the fantail for photos of fish, and fishermen and women. But, my thoughts keep returning to, how to make an experience like this real for students. I believe that a research experience and interaction with scientists can make an impression on a student that will last a lifetime. I want students to ask questions and be able to find the resources to answer them. On this voyage I have learned how scientists map the seafloor, and like NOAA I am interested in finding even more ways to use the data.  The Hydrography branch of NOAA recognizes that seafloor maps are a valuable resource that can have multiple uses in addition to producing nautical charts for safe surface navigation. They are looking for ways to, Map It Once: Use Many Times. I had in mind something catchier like, Hydrographic Survey: Ocean Window, but the thought is the same. I like the idea of something called Hydrographic Survey Highlights.

Students could see seafloor discoveries or mysteries from the most recent surveys, and then use NOAA resources to discover what they are or what seafloor features they represent. A good example would be the images of the volcanic plume surveyed by the Fairweather in Dutch Harbor, AK this summer. Another question I have had while surveying the seafloor around Pavlof Volcano is, “Is it glacial, or is it volcanic?” Perhaps I will use one of those topics for a lesson plan when I get back.

I want to close my Teacher at Sea logs by saying that I have had the time of my life, and am willing to come back again if the Rainier ever needs me.

Here are some resources for looking at hydrographic survey data:

hjelm_log6e
Lisa Hjelm

Lisa Hjelm, August 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 9, 2008

A survey technician night processing on the Rainier
A survey technician night processing on the Rainier

Science and Technology Log: Ping to Chart … 

For the past three days I have been Night Processing. That may sound confusing, so I’ll explain. Instead of going out to sea to collect data, I have been processing the data that comes in from the launches. I can’t begin my job for the day until the evening. Survey technicians rotate between collecting and processing data. This science log will summarize the steps that go into turning raw hydrographic data into a navigational chart. Beginning right after dinner, three, four or five, (depending on how many launches were out that day) survey technicians get right to work processing data. CTD casts are used to calculate sound velocity throughout the water column. Night processors take that sound velocity data and apply it as a correction to the raw bathymetry data collected by the launch. Next, the raw data is corrected for the heave of the boat (wave action), and finally for the influence of tides. Then all of this corrected data is merged, and a preliminary base surface (seafloor surface) is created for the bathymetry data.

A preliminary bathymetry chart posted in the Mess.
A preliminary bathymetry chart posted in the Mess.

To check the preliminary base surface, it is viewed with the corrected raw data overlaid. The night processor scans each line of the merged data and looks for anomalies, variations from the norm that might have skewed the base surface. This scan is a time-consuming process. To an outsider it looks a little bit like playing a computer game. Each survey line is divided into small increments and scanned in cross section. Any obviously anomalous data points are highlighted and eliminated. Once the day’s charted area has been scanned and cleaned, the new data is merged with other days’ work. Gradually, building day by day, an entire work area is charted.  To make this process manageable over a sizable area, the survey is divided into sections. Each survey technician is responsible for a section, or sheet. When all of the data has been collected and reviewed, the survey technician writes a scientific report that discusses any data quality  issues, and the work that was done. Other information collected, such as bottom sample data, is included in the scientific report. The sheet is compared with the existing, current chart and also with the bordering sheets. The completed field sheet is sent to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch (PHB) in Seattle where it is reviewed and checked for quality. Finally, the sheet is sent to the Marine Charting Division (MCD) in Silver Spring, MD. The Marine Charting Division chooses the actual soundings that will appear on the chart and publishes it.

An important exception to this step by step process occurs when a danger to navigation is discovered. Dangers are fast tracked, and the information is released to the public almost immediately.

The current chart on the Bridge. The red circle indicates the area in the bathymetric map to the left.
The current chart on the Bridge. The red circle indicates the area in the bathymetric map above.

Personal Science Log: There Ought to be Vents 

Each year my sixth grade science students at Crossroads Academy use one of the NOAA Ocean Explorer Expedition websites for a research project. The students ask a question, and then use NOAA resources to answer the question and write a lab report. This is a challenging project for sixth grade students, so I think some of my students will enjoy reading about how I have used the Teacher at Sea experience to “practice what I preach.”

Vocabulary: Hydrothermal vents -places on the seafloor where warm or hot water flows into the ocean. They are found in areas where there is volcanic activity. The hot, acidic fluids may carry dissolved metals that can precipitate to form ore deposits.

Pavlov Island volcano on the Alaska peninsula
Pavlov Island volcano on the Alaska peninsula, AK Observatory Program

I must confess that along with my Mission from NOAA to perform the duties of a Teacher at Sea (TAS), I came aboard Rainier on a mission of my own. I came to see volcanoes, and even more specifically, I dreamed of discovering volcanic activity or active hydrothermal venting on the seafloor. For as long as I can remember I have been interested in ore deposits that form at vents.

Before becoming a teacher, I mapped and studied ore deposits that formed millions of years ago. It would be very exciting to find evidence of an active vent here in Alaska. That evidence might be: cone shaped or cratered features on seafloor bathymetry maps; floating pumice; gas bubbling on the sea surface; local seawater color changes; and seismic activity (Carey and Sigurdsson, 2007).  By searching the NOAA Vents website I was able to confirm that anomalous values detected by the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth sensor) instrument (described in log 2) can also be used to help locate hydrothermal vents. Prior to the cruise, I researched the geology of the area as best I could without knowing the exact location of our work area. When I arrived at Rainier, I knew there would be active volcanoes nearby, and I was ready to go.

Approximate area of the current survey with nearby volcanoes indicated.
Approximate area of the current survey with nearby volcanoes indicated, Observatory Program

So far I haven’t seen evidence of hydrothermal venting, no floating pumice, discolored or bubbling water, and the Alaska Volcano Observatory, hasn’t reported seismic activity here within the last month. I have learned how to take a CTD cast, observed volcanic and glacial features in the local landscape, and studied the preliminary bathymetry posted on a chart in the Mess. I am not disheartened nor dissuaded from my quest. In fact, I am encouraged by news from the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Newsletter for the weeks of July 21 through August 4, 2008 where I read the following report.

Oscar Dyson and Fairweather:  In late June, Oscar Dyson responded to a request from the Office of Coast Survey to investigate a reported area of discolored water outside Dutch Harbor. Dyson confirmed the discoloration during a transit and took a water sample that suggested a possible plankton bloom.  OCS and OMAO then tasked Fairweather to investigate the anomaly during a scheduled transit. Fairweather personnel also confirmed the discolored water, and surveyed the area with the ship’s hull-mounted multi-beam echosounder systems. This revealed a group of small mounds rising a few meters off the seabed in about 100 meters of water directly below the area of discolored surface water. The sonar trace indicated that at least one of these features appeared to be actively emitting a plume of fluid or material. Based on a chartlett produced from the scan, OCS does not believe that these features pose any hazard to surface navigation.  These results have been shared with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Volcano Observatory, as well as NOAA’s National Weather Service, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

Rainier and I are only about 200 miles east of active hydrothermal vents. I have resisted the urge to shout, “Turn the ship around and head west!” After all, when compared to the vast territory that is Alaska, Dutch Harbor is right next door.

References: Carey, Steven, and Sigurdsson, Haraldur. 2007. Exploring submarine arc volcanoes. Oceanography, 20, 4: 80-89.

To learn more about discovering hydrothermal vents and to watch a submarine volcanic eruption, check out the websites below.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

Lisbeth Uribe, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: August 5, 2008

Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.
Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.

Ship Log 

In the last 48 hours the engineers, crew and scientists have had to re-attach the power cable to the dredge (see photograph), fix the cracked face plate of the pump, replace the blade and blade assembly, change the pipe nozzles that direct the flow of water into the cage, and work on the dredge survey sensor package (SSP). Dredging is hard on the equipment, so some mechanical problems are to be expected. The main concern is for lost time and running out of critical spare parts.  So far we have had great success with making the repairs quickly and safely.

Science and Technology Log 

Collecting Tow Event and Sensor Information for the Clam Survey 
Over the weekend I was moved up to the bridge during the towing of the dredge. I was responsible for logging the events of each tow and recording information about the ship and weather in a computerized system called SCS (Scientific Computer System). I listened carefully to the radio as the lab, bridge (captain) and crane operator worked together to maneuver the dredge off the deck and into the water, turn on the pumps, tow the dredge on the seafloor bottom, haul the dredge up, turn off the pump and bring the clam-filled dredge back on deck. It is important that each step of the tow is carefully timed and recorded in order to check that the tows are as identical as possible.  The recording of the events is then matched to the sensor data that is collected during dredge deployment. As soon as the dredge is on deck I come downstairs to help clean out the cage and sort and shuck the clams.   

Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.
Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.

My next job assignment was to initialize and attach to both the inside and outside of the dredge the two mini-logger sensors before each tow. Once the dredge was back on deck I removed both mini-loggers and downloaded the sensor data into the computers. Both sensors collect pressure and temperature readings every 10 seconds during each tow. Other sensors are held in the Survey Sensor Package (SSP), a unit that communicates with onboard computers wirelessly.  Housed on the dredge, the SSP collects information about the dredge tilt, roll, both manifold and ambient pressure & temperature and power voltage every second. The manifold holds the six-inch pipe nozzles that direct the jets of water into the dredge.  Ideally the same pump pressure is provided at all depths of dredge operation. In addition to the clam survey, NOAA scientists are collecting other specimens and data during this cruise.

Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.
Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.

NOAA Plankton Diversity Study 
FDA and University of Maryland Student Intern Ben Broder-Oldasch is collecting plankton from daily tows.  The plankton tows take place at noon, when single-celled plants called phytoplankton are higher in the water column. Plankton rise and fall according to the light. Plankton is collected in a long funnel-shaped net towed slowly by the ship for 5 minutes at a depth of 20 meters. Information is collected from a flow meter suspended within the center of the top of the net to get a sense of how much water flowed through the net during the tow. Plankton is caught in the net and then falls into the collecting jar at the bottom of the net.  In the most recent tow, the bottle was filled with a large mass of clear jellied organisms called salps. Ben then filters the sample to sort the plankton by size. The samples will be brought back to the lab for study under the microscope to get a sense of plankton species diversity on the Georges Bank.

An easy way to collect plankton at home or school is to make a net out of one leg of a pair of nylons. Attach the larger end of the leg to a circular loop made from a metal clothes hanger.  Cut a small hole at the toe of the nylon and attach a plastic jar to the nylon by wrapping a rubber band tightly around the nylon and neck of the jar.  Drag the net through water and then view your sample under a microscope as soon as possible.

Biological Toxin Studies 

NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).
NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).

Scientists from NOAA and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are working together to monitor clams for biological toxins. Clams and other bi-valves such as oysters and mussels, feed on phytoplankton. Some species of phytoplankton make biological toxins that, when ingested, are stored in the clam’s neck, gills, digestive systems, muscles and gonadal tissues.  If non-aquatic animals consume the contaminated clams, the stored toxin can be very harmful, even fatal.  The toxin affects the gastrointestinal and neurological systems. The rate at which the toxins leave the clams, also known as depuration rate, varies depending on the toxin type, level of contamination, time of year, species, and age of the bivalve. Unfortunately, freezing or cooking shellfish has no effect on the toxicity of the clam. The scientists on the Delaware II are collecting and testing specimens for the two biological toxins that cause Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

NOAA Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) Study 
A group of naturally occurring diatoms, called Pseudo-nitzschia, manufacture a biological toxin called Domoic Acid (DA) that causes Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) in humans.  Diatoms, among the most common organisms found in the ocean, are single-celled plankton that usually float and drift near the ocean surface. NOAA scientist Amy Nau collects samples of ocean water from the surface each day at noon. By taking water samples and counting the numbers of plankton cells, in particular the Pseudo-nitzschia diatoms, scientists can better determine if a “bloom” (period of rapid growth of algae) is in progress. She filters the sample to separate the cells, places the filter paper in a test tube with water, adds a fixative to the tube and sets it aside for further study in her lab in Beaufort, NC. 

Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.
Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.

FDA Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) Study 
Scientists aboard the Delaware II are also collecting meat samples from clams for an FDA study on the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. When clams ingest the naturally occurring dinoflagellate called Alexandrium catenella, they accumulate the toxin in their internal organs. When ingested by humans, the toxin blocks sodium channels and causes paralysis. In the lab, testing for the toxin causing PSP is a lengthy process that involves injecting a mouse with extracts from shellfish tissue.  If the mouse dies, scientists know the toxin is present. The FDA is testing the accuracy of a new quick test for the toxin called the Jellet Test Kit. After measuring and weighing a dozen clams from each station on the Georges Bank, Ben and Amy remove and freeze the meat (internal organs and flesh) from the clams to save for further testing by scientists back on land. At the same time, they also puree a portion of the sample and test it using the Jellet strips for a quicker positive or negative PSP result.

Personal Log 

Pilot whales sighted off the bow!
Pilot whales sighted off the bow!

The problems that we have experienced with regard to the dredge over the past few days are an important reminder of the need for the scientists and crew to not only be well prepared but also flexible when engaged in fieldwork. All manner of events, including poor weather and mechanical difficulties, can and do delay the gathering of data. The Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, is constantly checking for inconsistencies or unusual patterns, particularly from the dredge sensor readings, that might need to be addressed in order to ensure that the survey data is consistent and accurate. The time required to repair the dredge meant I was able to do a load of laundry. Dredging is very dirty work! Good thing I am using old shirts and shorts. I also caught up on a few emails using the onboard computers. Though the Internet service can be slow at times it is such a luxury to be able to stay in touch with friends and family on land. I still have two very special experiences that I wish to share before ending my log.

Late in the evening a couple of days ago, as we steamed toward our next tow station, I was invited to peer over the bow. The turbulence in the water was causing a dinoflagellate called Noctiluca to sparkle and glow with a greenish-blue light in the ocean spray.  The ability of Noctiluca and a few other species of plankton and some deep-sea fish to emit light is called bioluminesense. A few days later we had the great fortune to see five pilot whales about 100 meters away, gliding together, their black dorsal fins slicing through the water, occasional plumes of air bursting upward through their blowholes (nostrils located on the tops of their heads).

Answers to the previous log’s questions: 

1. What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean? The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is 10,852 meters deep, (deeper than Mount Everest is tall – 8,850 meters).  Speaking of tall mountains, the tallest mountain in the world is not Mount Everest, but the volcano Mauna Kea (Hawaii).  It reaches 4,200 meters above sea level, but its base on the sea floor is 5,800 meters below sea level.  Its total height (above base) is therefore 10, 000 meters!

2.What is the longest-lived animal on record? In 2007, an ocean quahog was dredged off the Icelandic coast.  By drilling through and counting the growth rings on its shell, scientists determined it was between 405 and 410 years old. Unfortunately it did not survive the examination, so we do not know how much longer it would have lived if left undisturbed. This ancient clam was slightly less than 6 inches in width.

Lisa Hjelm, August 4, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 4, 2008

Science and Technology Log: The Most Productive Hydrographic Vessel in the World 

Dive team heading out to test new equipment
Dive team heading out to test new equipment

After a week at sea my days are starting to have a rhythm. I still find myself on the wrong stairway or deck, or going back for my hard hat, but not as often. Each morning I check the Plan of the Day (POD) and head to the work/lesson planned for the TAS (pronounced TAZ), Teacher at Sea. I am not the only visitor or newcomer on the NOAA Ship Rainier. There are hydrographers visiting from South Korea, physical scientists from the NOAA office in Seattle and new crewmembers. The Rainier has proved to be a welcoming environment. This log will be about my introduction to working aboard ship. The first order of business upon arriving at our anchorage at Inner Iliasik Island was safety training, and instruction in ropes handling and releasing the launches. Every person on board has a station and job in case of an emergency. Drills are frequent and thorough. Fire drills require everyone to muster and simulate response to a detailed fire scenario. After the drill there is a debriefing, so efficiency can be improved.

Everyone on board, including the Teacher at Sea (TAS), must be proficient at handling the ropes. I learned to coil and throw a rope and to tie a bowline. I use those skills each day deploying and recovering the launches. In the morning my jobs are releasing the aft hook as the launch is lowered into the water and catching the aft line and securing it in the launch. In the evening I throw the line back to the ship and secure the aft hook, so the launch can be raised onto the ship. These are straightforward but very visible jobs. Many people are on deck assisting and observing. I made a point of practicing my line handling skills. Physically releasing and recovering the launches is handled by the Deck Crew. NOAA Ship Rainier uses a gravity davit system. The launches literally slide by the force of gravity into the water. The Deck Crew ensures that the slide is controlled and safe.

The divers arrive back on board at about 9:00 pm
The divers arrive back on board at about 9:00 pm

The organization of personnel aboard NOAA Ship Rainier was initially confusing to me. I’ve gradually come to understand that personnel are organized into five groups: NOAA Corps Officers, Survey Technicians, Deck Crew, Engineering, and Stewards. Each group has basic responsibilities. NOAA Corps Officers direct operations and navigate the ship. They also work on the survey team. Survey Technicians, the science crew, are employed by the Department of Commerce to conduct hydrographic surveys. Members of the Deck Crew fit my image of true mariners. They maintain the ship, deploy and retrieve the launches, assist with navigation and drive the launches. Engineering keeps the ship running and maintains the engines in the ship and launches. The stewards manage the food supply, and the food is excellent aboard the Rainier. These descriptions are somewhat oversimplified. In reality every crewmember seems to have a wide range of skills, and there is overlap amongst the departments. A great example is the divers. There are seven or eight certified NOAA divers on this leg. They come from all departments: officers, engineering, deck and survey. The Dive Master is a member of the Deck Crew and also part of the specially trained firefighting team. Divers are required to log a dive at least once every six weeks. They have opportunities when hull inspections are required, or tide gauges must be installed. Occasionally they dive on their own time, for fun. I took pictures of a Dive Team preparing to test some new equipment.

The engine room, which is the control center of the ship
The engine room, which is the control center of the ship

In the course of almost two weeks at sea, I’ve toured the ship from bow to stern and talked with most of the people on board. It has been fascinating to investigate the engine room, listen to stories and talk with mariners of all ages. Today, the engineering group enthusiastically showed me around below decks. In their words, “this is the control center,” and indeed they have a room-sized control panel with access to engineering diagrams and controls for the whole ship. Everything was scrupulously clean and accessible by bright red walkways. I saw the boilers, generators, engines, crankshafts, and plumbing and desalination systems. The desalination system produces the fresh water we use for laundry and showers by distilling salt water.

The ship’s engines
The ship’s engines

Next, we went to aft steerage, and I saw the giant crankshaft the moves the ship’s rudder. Everyone aboard seems to have a job that is both challenging and interesting. My daily work is with the survey group as I am aboard as a scientist. Everyone in this group has a science or technology background. As in all of the organizational groups, the science party spans a wide range of ages. Many of the survey technicians are in their twenties. They plan to work for a few years and then go on to graduate school. Several of us are considerably older.  It is worth noting that everyone seems to be actively learning new skills all the time, and NOAA provides opportunities for continuing education. There are jobs on NOAA ships for High School graduates and university professors. My roommate is the Chief Steward. She has been cooking and managing provisions aboard NOAA ships for twenty-nine years. Her job has taken her all over the world.

The beach at Inner Iliasik Island is made of pebbles instead of sand
The beach at Inner Iliasik has pebbles instead of sand

Personal Log: View from the Fantail 

My personal day begins and ends with what I think of as Volcano Check. I scan the horizon in all directions for plumes of smoke or ash. Next I examine all of the nearby visible craters. Just like the ensigns on the Bridge, I am On Watch. On Fridays I verify my personal observations by checking the Alaskan Volcano Observatory website, where a weekly update on volcanic activity is posted. There you can find detailed information and images of all the active volcanoes. There are instructions for collecting and submitting ash samples. If I were an Alaskan science teacher I would be on the lookout for opportunities to collect ash samples with my students.

I may use some of my free time looking at volcanic rocks with binoculars, but I am not the only one. There are at least five people with geology degrees, and an equal number of meteorologists. Out on the fantail the line between vocation and avocation blurs. Twice I have had the opportunity to see the rocks up close, once at a beach party on Inner Iliasik Island and once on an exploratory outing on one of the smaller launches. About once a week the Rainier hosts a beach party with a bonfire. I hiked to the highest point on the island for some beautiful scenery and a close up look at what turned out to be andesitic tuffaceous rocks. On our launch ride we explored caves at Arches Point and entered Long John Lagoon to see birds and bears (unfortunately my camera battery died). The ship also has satellite TV and movies, but on a summer night most people are outside.

NOAA Ship Rainier from Inner Iliasik Island
NOAA Ship Rainier from Inner Iliasik Island
A nearby volcanic crater
A nearby volcanic crater

Lisa Hjelm, August 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 3, 2008

Lowering a launch using a gravity davit system
Lowering a launch using a gravity davit system

Science and Technology Log 

This morning I awoke to my first cloudy sky. Although clouds line the horizon, the sky above is blue. The fine weather is holding steady. At 0815 three launches were deployed to continue surveying the deep water, central part of the channel. I watched them head out into open water, but today I am in the survey room observing the Survey Technicians (ST) as they process the multibeam sonar data. At the same time, the ship is underway to a new anchorage on the other side of the end of the world, or more properly, the other side of Inner Iliasik Island. After a full week I have a new perspective on this island and volcano world. I’ve learned the names of our islands, Inner Iliasik and Iliasik. From the launch I am able to orient myself by looking out at the islands, not just by looking at the map. I continue to learn more about navigation charts. Whenever I stop by the Bridge someone points out something new. Today I learned that this area was previously mapped during surveys from 1900 – 1939 and 1940 – 1969. That means that much of it was surveyed with single beam sonar just after World War II. It took twenty summer seasons to cover this area using single beam sonar.

The launch heads out to sea
The launch heads out to sea

Using modern, multi-beam sonar, NOAA Ship Rainier is the first ship to chart this area, and the survey should be completed by 2009, or less than two years from start of survey to final chart. As the ship transits to its new anchorage we are collecting bottom samples at specified locations along the way. To collect a sample, the ship stops and is maneuvered into position, so the sampler can be safely lowered. A metal container descends on a cable to the seafloor. When it hits bottom a spring loaded scoop closes and collects a bottom sample. The container is winched back to the surface, and the water drained out. Then, we open it up to see what’s inside. Today our samples have been turning up broken shells, sand and shells, pebbles and shells and sticky green mud. After the samples are logged they go right back into the sea. I collected some sand samples to dry out and examine under microscopes with students.

Bottom sampling from the ship
Bottom sampling from the ship

Bottom samples are used to investigate and confirm comments on the existing navigation chart. Examples of chart comments would be sandy, shells (s, sh), black sand (bk s), shoals, rocky, and my personal favorite, smoking volcano. Sample locations are selected to provide representative coverage of the areas that have been mapped, and the data will be used to update the charts. Soon this sample data along with reflectivity data (measured as changes in backscatter of the sound pulse that reflect the hardness of the bottom surface) from the surveys will be used to map the type of seafloor along with the shape of the seafloor. This would be similar to generating a preliminary geologic map of the seafloor. Tomorrow I expect to be back on a launch with a better understanding what goes in to compiling a navigational chart.

Personal Log: Observations from the Fantail 

Kayakers heading out to explore
Kayakers heading out to explore

Dinner is at 1700 (5:00 pm) prompt. After dinner people pursue their own activities. Some fish from the fantail. If the weather is calm, the smaller launches are used by fishing parties, and sea kayakers venture out to the islands to explore and hike. As I enjoyed the bright, warm sunlight on the fantail deck, I watched the progress of the hikers, tiny dots progressing steadily up the slope of Inner Iliasik Island. I gazed past the islands at the distant, hazy volcanoes, and spotted an ashy plume! With binoculars it was possible to see that smoke was rising from a small crater atop a conical volcano. Several of us rushed to the bridge to identify the volcano by locating it on the nautical chart. Our best guess, Dutton, which was not listed as presently erupting on the Alaskan Volcano website, http://www.avo.alaska.edu . Volcano watching is an exciting after dinner activity.

The catch of the day
The catch of the day

Lisa Hjelm, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 2, 2008

Lowering the launch
Lowering the launch

Science and Technology Log 

Hydrographic Survey – “Mowing the Ocean” 

Science surrounds me. Everywhere I look people are practicing the skills I’ve been teaching for the past twelve years. Today, I am practicing the skills of observation and documentation. The following are my observations of hydrography in action.

Important vocabulary
Hydrographic survey or Hydrography: the measurement and description of the sea bed and coastal area. These data are used to produce navigation charts.

CTD and CTD cast: “CTD” is the abbreviated name for an instrument package that has sensors for measuring the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth of seawater. The instrument is lowered to the bottom. It collects Conductivity, Temperature, Depth and density data for the entire water column. That data is used to make corrections in the hydrographic survey data.

Multibeam sonar: By measuring the time it takes for sound waves sent from a transmitter mounted beneath the launch to bounce back, scientists determine the depth to the seafloor. Multibeam sonar systems provide fanshaped coverage of the seafloor. Because the speed of sound in water is related to conductivity, temperature and depth the CTD data is used with the multibeam sonar data.

Recovering the CTD after a cast
Recovering the CTD after a cast

The day starts at 0800 (8:00 am) on the fantail (rear, lowermost deck of the ship) with updates, detailed weather forecasts for the areas that will be mapped, and instructions from the Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), and Field Operations Officer (FOO). Then, wearing flotation devices and hardhats, each crew assembles to board the launches. As each launch is lowered, it is stopped even with the deck, and its crew of at least three, two hydrographers and a driver, boards. A cooler and thermoses for lunch are handed over. The launch is lowered into the water on cables and unhooked from the ship. It speeds at about 15 knots to the area to be mapped. The survey begins with a CTD cast. The CTD is lowered to the seafloor to collect data on water conductivity, temperature and depth. It is necessary to conduct a CTD scan every four hours or whenever conditions change. For example, if the launch moves to deeper water or to a different area. That done, the crew engages the multibeam echo sounder system, and at 7 knots per hour, the launch begins collecting data,“mowing the ocean.” In order to completely map the assigned seafloor area, the launch ends up making a pattern very similar to the back and forth pattern made by a lawnmower. This sounds easy enough, but it takes about a year to really learn the job. Each launch needs a three man crew. The Coxswain drives the launch and keeps the towed equipment on the grid line no matter what the seas around are doing.

Driving the launch as we “mow the ocean.”
Driving the launch as we “mow the ocean.”

The two hydrographers take turns scanning and tweaking four computer screens that are monitoring data collection. The towed instruments are collecting real time data that has to be checked and stored. All of this work is conducted in a relatively small boat, in the open ocean. When you add that component, you quickly realize that this is not only exciting science by a true adventure at sea. These crews are highly trained professionals. The launch drivers are senior members of the Deck Crew and are very experienced mariners. So far, I have worked with a ferry driver, a commercial fisherman, and an outward bound instructor. I tried driving the launch for a little while on my first day out. With no experience at all, I found it quite difficult to keep the launch headed along the line. Any deviation of the towed instruments from their prescribed grid path causes missed spots called “holidays.” “Holidays” can be caused by other things as well such as unexpected software crashes or gaps caused when data points have to be removed during processing. For complete survey coverage, the launches must return to remap “holidays.” These are therefore holidays for the equipment not the hydrographers.

Inner Iliasik Island
Inner Iliasik Island

Hydrographers have both technical skills and nautical skills. Many of them are officers on the Rainier. They troubleshoot whenever the software malfunctions and fix anything that breaks on the ship during the workday.  I looked in the toolbox, and yes, there is duct tape. The launch crew also assists in deploying and retrieving the launches from the ship. This is an exciting and challenging job in an extraordinarily beautiful environment.  After the launches return and are recovered, the hydrographers immediately meet to report on the day’s work. Each team leader makes a report and any problems with data logging and equipment are documented and discussed. The Field Operations Officer (FOO) uses this information to plan for the next day. And last but not least, if you’ve read this far, you are wondering how the Teacher at Sea fits into this. Each day the Teacher at Sea becomes more proficient at her tasks. I am provided with training, and my understanding is growing. But, on that first day, my day of “shock and awe,” I spent my time taking pictures, asking questions, investigating my personal flotation device and standing aft (in the back of the boat) to avoid seasickness. Additional time was spent practicing standing steadily and walking around the small boat. In other words, I spent the day “getting my sea legs. “

Personal Log 

Pavlof Volcano and Pavlof Sister
Pavlof Volcano and Pavlof Sister

The second full day at sea we continued our transit to the survey area. Bright sunshine ignited an endless parade of snowy volcanoes. Off the bow, whale spouts dotted the horizon, and puffins bobbed and clumsily took off flashing their orange feet like small flags. At 2100 (9:00 pm), with the day still bright, nearly everyone gathered as the ship dropped anchor in a small bay at what appeared to be the end of the world. Two smooth, lawn-green islands connected by an isthmus marked the boundary. Beyond, on a hazy, distant horizon were the outlines of volcanoes. Behind, loomed the pointed, snowy Pavlof volcanic peaks. Perhaps Robert Frost was right.

SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. – Robert Frost

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

Lisbeth Uribe, July 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 31, 2008

“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim
“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim

Ship Log 

Man Overboard Drill 

Just as the day watch started our shift we heard three short blasts of the ship’s horn, signaling a “Man Overboard” drill.  While the crew was on deck (both on the bow (front of the ship) and stern (back), the Chief Boatswains Jon Forgione and Leno Luis put on life vests and safety helmets and were lowered into the water in a rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB).  When those on board the ship sighted the dummy victim, we raised our arms and pointed in its direction. The rescuers then headed in the direction the crew were pointing.  At the same time, the Operations Officer and Medical Person in Charge (MPIC) Claire Surrey readied her gear to perform life saving measures once the victim was safely brought on the deck.  Rescue protocols are taken very seriously as they are designed to keep all members of the crew safe.  Once the MPIC determined the dummy victim was breathing on their own and required no further medical assistance, the drill was over and the crew returned to their stations or berths (sleeping rooms).

Scuba Divers to the Rescue! 

Not long after the man overboard drill, the dredge rolled when it was being hauled from the sea floor, wrapping the hawser (floating tow line) underneath the cage.  To make matters worse, as the dredge was being lifted up the ramp on deck, the hawser became caught in the ship’s rudder.  Our three NOAA Working Divers, Executive Officer (XO) Monty Spencer, Chief Steward (chef), MPIC Jonathan Rockwell and MPIC Claire Surrey suited up in scuba suits for a dive to untangle the rudder. NOAA Working Divers must complete a 3-week training course. They are skilled at ship husbandry, such as working on the rudder, propellers, zincs (metal zinc objects that are placed on the hull of a ship to attract corrosion), and the bow thruster (a tunnel through the ship with a propeller to help direct the bow when docking).  

Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.
Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.

The diver breathes air through a mouthpiece, called a regulator, from a scuba tank of compressed air that is strapped to the diver’s back. The regulator, connected by a hose to the tank, adjusts the air in the tank to the correct pressure that a diver can safely breathe at any given depth. Originally called the “aqua-lung”, “scuba” stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Scuba gear has helped scientists explore the ocean, however, the equipment does have limitations.  The deepest dive that can be made by a NOAA scuba diver is about 40 meters, but the average depth of the ocean is about 3,800 meters.  The increased water pressure of the dive limits the depth of the descent of a scuba diver.

As Monty and Jonathan plunged into the ocean, the rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB) was deployed with General Vessel Assistant (GVA) Adam Fishbein and Chief Boatswains, Jon Forgione at the tiller arm, to assist in diver rescue operations if needed. On standby in full scuba gear was MPIC Claire Surrey in case the divers ran into any trouble. In no time at all the divers freed the tangled hawser from the rudder and were back on board. At each step of the job, great care was taken to check all gear and ensure the safety of the crew.

Question: What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean?

Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog
Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog

Science and Technology Log 

As I mentioned in my first log, we are targeting two species of clams during our survey, the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). They are very easy to tell apart, as the surf clam is much larger (about 18 cm in width) and lighter in color. “Quahog” (pronounced “koh-hawg”) originated from the Narrangansett tribe that lived in Rhode Island and portions of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Atlantic surf clams are a productive species, in that they are faster growing, with a lifespan of about 15 years, with variable recruitment (reproductive cycles). They are much smaller and typically found in more shallow waters (<50 meters) from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland than the ocean quahog. The Quahog lives in depths of 50-100 meters in US waters (from Cape Hatteras up to the north Atlantic (Iceland), and also in the Mediterranean). Quahogs grow slowly, and typically live for more than 100 years, with infrequent and regional recruitment.

There is a great variety of material, both organic and inorganic that is collected by the dredge providing a snapshot of the habitat below.  At times it is sandy, sometimes the sediment is the consistency of thick clay, in which case we must re-submerge the dredge for a few minutes to clean the cage. At other times large rocks and boulders are captured.

Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge.  All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.
Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge. All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.

Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs live in a part of the ocean called the subtidal zone. Their habitat is the sandy, muddy area that is affected by underwater turbulence but beyond heavy wave impact. In addition to clams, our dredge is capturing a variety of organisms perfectly adapted to this environment, such as sponges, marine snails and sea stars that are able to cling to hard materials to protect them from being swept away by ocean currents and waves. Marine snails and hermit crabs are also able to cling to surfaces.  Like the clam, many organisms have flattened bodies, thereby reducing their exposure to the pull of waves and currents.  We find flat fish, such as flounder and skate, which avoid turbulence and their enemies by burying themselves in the sand.  Flounder prey on sand dollars, another flat organism living in the subtidal zone.  In many hauls of the dredge, the cage is filled with sand dollars. We have collected lots of other interesting animals, such as hermit crabs, worms, sea jellies, sea mice and, less often, crabs and sea urchins. The Sea Mouse is plump, about 10 cm in length, segmented and covered in a large number of grey brown bristles that give it a furry appearance.

Question: What is the longest-lived animal on record?

Personal Log 

The main difficulty I have with writing this log is choosing what to cover. Each day is filled with new and interesting experiences. I am learning so much, not only about the science behind the clam survey, but also about the ship itself and the skills necessary to operate the ship and conduct a marine survey.  Everyone has been extremely generous with sharing his or her knowledge and experience with me.   While cleaning the inside of the dredge last night one of the wires made a small tear in the seat of my waterproof overalls. Now I know to pack a bike inner tube repair kit if I am lucky enough to be invited to join another survey cruise! One of those small rubber patches would have been the perfect for the job. I was able to find a sewing kit and in short order sewed the tear and sealed it with a layer of duct tape. Now I am ready to get back to work!

Tiffany Risch, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: July 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Hazy in the morning with less than 6 miles visibility
  • Calm seas with little cloud cover
  • Wind speed = 5 knots
  • Waves = Wind drives waves < 1 foot
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Science and Technology Log 

Today started with an early morning shift, working from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.  As my watch took over, the DELAWARE II began steaming towards the first station of the day to conduct a survey of the surf clam and quahog size and abundance inhabiting this specific area. In order to complete a survey of the area, a dredge is used to capture any surf clams or quahogs that are pushed out of the bottom sediment.  On the top of the dredge are hoses that push pressurized water onto the bottom to loosen up any bivalves.  A bivalve is an organism that has shells consisting of two halves, such as in a clam or a scallop. The dredge is towed behind the DELAWARE II for five minutes at a speed of 1.5 nautical miles per hour.  Attached to the dredge are sensors which transmit dredge performance information back to scientists in the dry lab to record and analyze.  The accuracy of the survey depends greatly on the credibility of the sensor data, and therefore, scientists must monitor variability of the dredge.  After the dredge is brought back to the surface, the load must be sorted, measured, and then discarded.

After listening to a presentation by Larry Jacobson, I learned a lot of new facts about both Atlantic sufclams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean quahogs. Surf clams live only about 15 years, grow very fast, and can inhabit ocean waters stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Newfoundland.  These bivalves are found in waters less than 50 meters of water. Ocean quahogs on the other hand can live for greater than 100 years, are very slow growing, and are found in ocean waters between 50 and 100 meters deep from Cape Hatteras, around the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Giving power to the hydraulic pump.
Giving power to the hydraulic pump.

Scientists on this cruise are also interested in studying other aspects of the clam populations, such as a condition called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Because bivalves are filter feeders, they eat by filtering food out of the waters around them.  Sometimes, algae can contaminate clams using a toxin that is harmful to humans.  When this happens and humans eat the shellfish, they themselves can become quite sick.  Samples of clam meats are being taken during this research cruise to be studied back at a lab and determine what exactly is happening in regards to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Personal Log 

Today has been quite interesting, as I moved through the many stations that are involved with conducting this survey. I was trained on how to measure clams in the wet lab, how to apply the power to the dredge in the dry lab, and even how to shuck a clam to retrieve the meat which is also measured.  I was also quite amazed regarding how efficient everyone is on the ship, as we all have a job to do, and it all gets done before we arrive at the next station.

One of my highlights today was overcoming my sea sickness and finally getting my sea legs!  Everyone is so supportive, from the officers, to the scientists, and to the volunteers who are all so nice and helpful. I’m looking forward to my next eight days at sea and learning more about the research being conducted.

Katie Turner, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 30, 2008

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 10.15.47 AMWeather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility:  10 miles
Wind Direction:  050
Wind Speed:  7 knots
Sea Wave Height:  0-1 foot
Swell Wave Height:  2-3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 8.3 ˚C.
Present Weather Conditions: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

This was the final day at sea for this cruise and we have just returned Dutch Harbor.  The cruise has been challenging for the scientists as they have had to scale back their study, and even eliminate some experiments.  Fifteen days of cruise time were lost while repairs were made to the ship. Conditions while working at sea are unpredictable and require acceptance, patience, and flexibility.

Ship's cruise path
Ship’s cruise path

The Buoy Experiment 

In addition to the side by side comparison study, a unique experiment was designed and performed during this cruise to investigate how walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) behave in the absence versus presence of either vessel, to augment the comparison study.  Transducers were mounted on a buoy, which was deployed from OSCAR DYSON, and allowed to drift while collecting acoustic data on pollock schools with the ships at a distance.  As the buoy drifted along, MILLER FREEMAN and OSCAR DYSON alternately passed by the buoy on a “racetrack” 6 nautical miles (nm) long.  Each ship passed the buoy within 10 meters along the racetrack about every 30 minutes, and maintained a position opposite one another.

The racetrack pass experiment will provide information on how fish respond to the ship as it approaches and passes over them, and then as it moves away. The acoustic data collected by the transducers on the buoy was monitored aboard OSCAR DYSON during the operation, and was downloaded in entirety once the buoy was retrieved for analysis. We made a total of seven buoy passes, which took about 3 ••• hours.  This experiment was done at night when pollock schools migrate up from the bottom of the ocean into mid-water regions.  It was interesting to observe the navigation operations from the bridge as ships maneuvered around the racetrack in the dark. The computer screenshot below shows the track (in red) of the MILLER FREEMAN after our 6th pass of the buoy.  The short, blue vertical line at the end of the red track line at the top of the screen represents the ship. (Green lines are depth contours.) After completing the buoy experiment we picked up the transect from where we had left off and continued the side-byside study.

View of Unalaska
View of Unalaska
On the bridge bringing MILLER FREEMAN into Captain’s Bay, Executive Officer Natasha Davis (official owner of ship’s cat) and Ensign Otto Brown
On the bridge bringing MILLER FREEMAN into Captain’s Bay, Executive Officer Natasha Davis and Ensign Otto Brown

Another Setback 

Later that day the ship developed engine problems and it was necessary to shut down the main engine to investigate. Leaks in the cooling system involving two separate cylinders had developed. This same problem occurred recently with a different cylinder, and was one of the problems that originally delayed our cruise out of Dutch Harbor.  The engineers repaired the system and we were underway again within a few hours.  At this point we were nearly 450 nautical miles from Dutch Harbor, with limited resources for additional repairs.  In the best interest and safety of all aboard, the Commanding Officer decided to discontinue our north and westward direction along the cruise course and head the ship back to Dutch Harbor.

Ship's cat
Ship’s cat

Personal Log 

Our final day in the Bering Sea was mostly sunny.  Dall’s porpoise and whales were occasionally sighted off in the distance, and we watched ash clouds rise from Okmok volcano off our starboard side all afternoon as we closed in on Unalaska.  The wind seemed to be carrying the ash cloud to the southwest, and we hoped that it would not affect flights out of Dutch Harbor for those of us who are flying home.  We arrived in Unalaska before 10 pm, leaving just enough time to anchor and repeat the acoustic calibration. After the scientists and I leave the ship in the morning, she will head back to her home port of Seattle, where she will have a maintenance check before the next cruise. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay on MILLER FREEMAN and owe many thanks to the officers and crew for their hospitality. It has been a pleasure to get to know everyone and I will have good memories of this cruise, despite the breakdowns and delays. I am especially grateful to the scientists on board, Patrick Ressler and Paul Walline, for sharing their work, helping me understand a little about acoustic surveys, and for their friendship during this experience.

Lisbeth Uribe, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Prior to our departure on the survey, all the volunteers attended presentations by NOAA scientists about the work we would be doing. The purpose of the clam survey is to provide consistent, unbiased estimates of the relative abundance for many shellfish in the North East region. The target species for our survey are the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). We also went to a NOAA storeroom and were outfitted with our foul weather gear (heavy waterproof boots, fluorescent yellow rain pants and rain jacket). While on board we received several briefings about safety and the expectations for behavior during the cruise.  During an emergency drill we each tried on our survival suit. I keep the suit in a bag at the foot of my bed, ready for any emergency!

We set sail at 2:00 pm on Monday, the 28th of July, and headed south towards our first tow location in the Southern New England region. The first 10 survey points or stations of our cruise are repeats of points surveyed in the last trip. This means we will be heading south toward the Long Island region before sailing for the Georges Bank region. We are conducting repeat surveys because after the last survey, the dredge’s electrical cable was replaced with a longer cable (formerly 750 feet, now 1,100 feet long). The added length in the cable results in a voltage drop that is expected to be enough to cause the dredge pump to loose pressure slightly. The pump, attached to the dredge itself, is designed to churn up sediment and shellfish as the dredge is towed along the sea floor. By rechecking the survey data collected in the last trip, the scientists will be able to calibrate the data obtained using the new cable. The scientists and crew are very concerned about accuracy of data collection during all parts of the Clam Survey.  

Problems with the Dredge 

For the first repeat survey station, our CO (Commanding Officer), Captain Wagner, warned the crew that the bottom might be rocky.  Once the dredge hit the bottom and began to be towed, we heard some loud noises indicating that there were indeed rocks on the bottom.  We pulled the dredge out of the water after the standard 5-minute tow time.  Rocks had twisted, bent and even severed various pipes and rods that make up the cage of the dredge. The row of outlet pipes (called nipples) that direct powerful jets of water towards the opening of the cage had been severed at the points in which they screw into the main pump pipe.

Though the damage was a setback in terms of lost time, it was amazing to see the engineers swing into action and make the necessary repairs over the next six hours. Out of the hold came an assortment of tools, such as metal cutters, jacks, soldering equipment, wrenches, pliers, and mesh wiring.  I was put to work extracting the broken ends of pipes and handing tools to the engineers as they either replaced or repaired broken parts.  By the end of my work shift (midnight) the dredge was fully repaired and ready for work again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 

I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.
I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.

I am fortunate to be working with a great team on the day shift crew (noon to midnight).  My Watch Chief, Shad Mahlum, and the Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, are excellent teachers, patient with my mistakes and quick to offer words of encouragement. There are several work assignments during each station.  I help by turning on and off the power for the pump on the dredge, clearing out the shellfish that get caught in the cage, and weighing and measuring the clams we catch. My favorite job is cleaning out the inside of the dredge. After the dredge has been hauled up the ramp onto the deck, the back door is released and the clams and broken shells tumble onto the sorting table. My job is to climb up inside the cage of the dredge and toss down the shells and organisms that get caught along the edges. I like the challenge of climbing around up high in a small space. We have been lucky to have very calm seas over the past couple of days.  This job will get quite a bit more challenging when the deck starts to move around more.

The dredged material is sorted into different wire baskets, also known as bushels, each contain either clams, other sea life or trash to be thrown back out to sea once we have moved past the survey site. The clams are weighed and measured.  At some stations we also collect meat specimens for further analysis.  All the information goes into the computer, including data collected by the sensors on the dredge.

Personal Log 

As part of the day shift crew, I work from noon until midnight.  It may sound tough working a 12-hour shift, but in reality the time passes very quickly as we are always busy either preparing for a station, processing the clams, or cleaning up after a dredge.  We are not permitted to return to our room until the end of our shift as our roommates are on the opposite shift and are sleeping.

When sailing out in the open water it easy to lose one’s sense of direction.  On the second day of the survey I knew that we were headed south for the repeat dredges, but it was not until one of the crew members showed me the site “Ship Tracker for NOAA” that I realized we were collecting samples just off the coast of Long Island all afternoon—not far from my home town, New York City! We are so busy moving from station to station that I often lose track of where I am.

I am grateful for the clear weather we have had so far on the cruise.  Learning to work with the dredge and scientific equipment would have been much more difficult if the seas were not so calm. Each day brings something new and interesting to learn and experience.

Well, my shift is almost over.  Time to think about eating a late night snack and then getting some rest, – lulled by the gentle rocking of the waves.

Question for the Day 

What is the origin of the word “Quahog”? What is the difference between Atlantic Surf clams and Ocean Quahogs? What is a sea mouse?

Jillian Worssam, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 30, 2008

Today is our last day at sea. We are scheduled to arrive at Dutch Harbor tomorrow morning at 09:00, and I am a bit sad. After 27 days I feel a part of a new family and do not think I can ever thank the scientists or the crew of the HEALY enough for the amazing experience they have provided.

David has many boxes all getting ready for the trip back to Seattle in ...October
David has many boxes all getting ready for the trip back to Seattle in …October

I have learned science about the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf, I have learned dynamics about the U.S. Coast Guard. The science leaves me wanting more, to delve a bit deeper into this amazing ecosystem that I know so little. The Coast Guard makes me want to talk to students, to let them know about the remarkable career options they could have, and the benefits of such an exciting job.

With a scientific tool for filtering water Chief Gray and I had some photographic fun!
With a scientific tool for filtering water Chief Gray and I had some photographic fun!

Everyone works hard to get the research of science accomplished on a cruise like this, but it is important to also have time for play, and to laugh. I have laughed a lot this month, laughed at three in the morning when I grabbed a stinging jelly fish, laughed at eleven at night when I lost in a game of cribbage, I especially laughed when we played a five person round of running ping pong, that also involved spinning. I almost threw up with that one, but the laughter was the most prevalent action.

Rich is working hard handling the crane to move the now empty MOCNESS, but he too has a great sense of humor!
Rich is working hard handling the crane to move the now empty MOCNESS, but he too has a great sense of humor!
As the crane swings the MOCNESS to its resting point for the enxt three months we watch and say farewell!
As the crane swings the MOCNESS to its resting point for the enxt three months we watch and say farewell!
The nets have been removed and now the MOCNESS is ready for a rest, I am too.
The nets have been removed and now the MOCNESS is ready for a rest, I am too.
Day is done, and as the sun sets I have fond memories of the past, and great expectations for the future!
Day is done, and as the sun sets I have fond memories of the past, and great expectations for the future!

**Quote of the Day: **

Never look back, use the knowledge you have gained to move forward. Never question decisions you have made, learn from them even if the lessons were hard.

And never forget, for it is the life that we live that gives meaning to our lives! ~Jillian Worssam

Lisa Hjelm, July 29, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: July 29, 2008

As soon as we pulled away from the pier the incredible beauty of Alaska began to unfold all around us.
As soon as we pulled away from the pier the incredible beauty of Alaska began to unfold all around us.

Science and Technology Log 

We set sail at precisely 1300, in bright sunshine. Once we were underway everyone was busy. The gangplank and onshore equipment were stowed away. Survival suits, hardhats and lots of instructions were handed out to the newcomers. Before I knew it I had been in and out of a survival suit and knew my job and location in case of fire or any other possible emergency. I made sure I knew where my lifeboat was as well (#7). This is after all my first adventure at sea. As soon as possible I stationed myself on the Bridge where I spent most of my time during the transit from Kodiak to our work site at the Pavlof Islands. I was very interested in learning about the navigation of the RAINIER, but initially I was distracted by the islands, volcanoes and wildlife to be seen in every direction. Puffins, with their funny orange feet, were everywhere and in one of the narrow passages I saw at least ten sea otters. As we moved beyond Kodiak Island we frequently saw the spouts of whales. Our transit time was 32 hours at 13 knots, so I did get to spend time observing the Bridge in full operation.

Scenery in transit
Scenery in transit

There were always at least three people at work on the Bridge, usually more. Everyone worked a four hour shift, and they were alert, attentive, observant, and busy every minute of that time. The ship’s position was updated on a nautical chart every 15 minutes as was the weather log. I noticed there was a NOAA cloud identification chart posted on the wall, the same one I use in my classroom. Two Ensigns were responsible for directing the ship, monitoring radar, speed, weather, our exact location, updating the chart and using binoculars to scan the horizon in all directions. A member of the Deck Crew was at the helm steering the boat and providing a third set of eyes scanning the horizon in all directions.  There was constant communication amongst the three of them about what they were seeing and doing. We saw and monitored the progress of many fishing trawlers, an occasional log and whales. Whales were most easily spotted by their spouts and the RAINIER shifted course slightly whenever necessary to avoid them.

The Captain was on the Bridge whenever we went through narrow passages, and she was called when fishing boats got within a certain distance of the RAINIER. It was exciting to see people collecting data and using all of the skills taught in science. I was seeing science in action. It was absolutely clear that everyone knew his or her job and did it well. As a result, my first night at sea, I slept like a baby, rocked by the waves.

View of the Bridge, in transit from Kodiak to Pavlof Islands, AK
View of the Bridge, in transit from Kodiak to Pavlof Islands, AK

Personal Log 

When I arrived in Kodiak it was cool and drizzly. Patches of snow were visible on the tops of nearby hills and lilacs were just beginning to bloom, very different from NH weather in late July. Our lilacs bloom on Memorial Day. A van from the ship picked me up and Ensign Anna-Liza Villard-Howe showed me to my bunk and gave me a quick tour of the ship. After practicing climbing into and out of an upper bunk and stowing my stuff, I spent some time investigating on my own. My first impression was that NOAA Ship RAINIER was similar to Hogwarts, lots of narrow passageways and staircases that moved around when I wasn’t looking. Now that I’ve been aboard for a couple of days, I know it’s only the ship that moves, not the staircases, and I’ve learned the way to my favorite place so far, the Bridge.

Ensign updating the chart
Ensign updating the chart
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisa Hjelm, learns the ropes
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisa Hjelm, learns the ropes

Jillian Worssam, July 29, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 29, 2008

was told yesterday that if you want too much, or have expectations too high you will be disappointed.  Well I disagree.  I believe in going full tilt into everything I do, and well, I want to do pretty much everything.

We have two more full days at sea and still I am learning.  Yesterday was busy for me, a 22 hour busy day.  The funny thing is, I slept in until 8:30 am, but didn’t go to bed until 6:30 this morning.

MK2 Jeffrey Coombe covered in grease after he emerges from the depths of the engine.
MK2 Jeffrey Coombe covered in grease after he emerges from the depths of the engine.

It all started with the Webinar and ended with three successive MOCNESS as Alexei tried unsuccessfully to catch pregnant Krill.  But I digress.  Yes the science is winding down, but there is still so much to do.  After the webinar I went to the engine room to watch the successful removal of a piston cylinder liner in one of the four main engines.  Salt water is used to cool fresh water to cool, I think, jacket water that cools the engine.  This is not a typical repair while at sea, but the engineering team in charge knew exactly what they were doing and proceeded with care and skill.

That is actually MKC John Brogan in the Engine.
That is actually MKC John Brogan in the Engine.

After the engine room, and dinner I joined FN Angela Ford as she did her TOW rounds.  The TOW (technician of the Watch) is responsible for walking the ship from stern to bow, covering all engineering spaces.  The TOWs are looking for water leaks, electrical concerns, fire, pretty much everything and anything out of place or potentially hazardous.  Even though I had already taken a tour of the vessel this trip was predominantly focused on safety and I was able to see new spaces I had not previously ventured into.

There is a right and wrong way to open, enter and leave all hatches aboard an ocean going vessel.
There is a right and wrong way to open, enter and leave all hatches aboard an ocean going vessel.

We even managed to find a crew member I had not previously met, Oscar.  This poor headless fellow is used in man overboard drills as well as other casualty drills during the voyage.  Oscar is also no light weight, weighing in at over 50 lbs he is a great way to practice and for crew members to realize what it would be like to actually work on an injured individual.

Oscar is also the designation of the flag flown when there is a man overboard.
Oscar is also the designation of the flag flown when there is a man overboard.

But the day is not over yet, we still had THREE MOCNESS drills to complete.  Alexei wants to find pregnant krill so that he can develop a baseline for aging.  Unfortunately after over four and a half hours of work all we had to show for our labors were some shrimp and krill that were not pregnant, bummer.

This could be a scientist, or a crew member, all we know is that the past 29 days have worked them to exhaustion!
This could be a scientist, or a crew member, all we know is that the past 29 days have worked them to exhaustion!

Quote of the Day: The “Control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.      Rachel Carson

FOR MY STUDENTS: Please find three authors who predominantly write about knowledge and preservation of the earth’s ecosystems and the species within.

Jillian Worssam, July 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 28, 2008

Today will be the last installment of my meet the crew Monday.  There are so many people that I would love to interview and share in this forum, but there is just not enough time in the day.

To start today we h